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Cablegate: Cologne Mosque/Cultural Center Cornerstone Laying - A

VZCZCXRO9190
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHDF #0046 3201423
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161423Z NOV 09
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0247
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 0010
RUEHDF/AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF 0263

UNCLAS DUSSELDORF 000046

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KISL PHUM TU GM
SUBJECT: COLOGNE MOSQUE/CULTURAL CENTER CORNERSTONE LAYING - A
MILESTONE FOR INTEGRATION

REF: 07 DUSSELDORF 22

1. (SBU) Summary: On November 7, the cornerstone for the
Turkish Islamic Union's (DITIB) Cologne mosque and cultural
center was laid in the presence of 2,000 guests, including
senior representatives from the German and Turkish governments,
and representatives of major religious communities After three
years in planning, German and Turkish representatives hailed the
event as a victory for Cologne's citizens, especially its large
Muslim population, mostly of Turkish origin. The cornerstone
laying ceremony celebrated the persistent determination of
Cologne's city hall -- under the formidable leadership of former
Cologne Lord Mayor Fritz Schramma -- and North-Rhine
Westphalia's (NRW) government to work together with DITIB --
directly tied to Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate
(Diyanet) -- closely to counter right wing extremist opposition
to the project and promote further Muslim integration in German
society. End summary.

2. (U) On the German side, MFA Minister of State Werner Hoyer,
who has his constituency in Cologne, represented the federal
government. Chancellor Merkel -- although not present at the
ceremony -- embraced the mosque's planned construction as
evidence that integration was an important value in Germany. In
a written statement read aloud by the organizers, Merkel said
that the construction of Germany's largest mosque was evidence
that people had found a home in Germany and were here to stay.
Thomas Kufen, NRW Commissioner for Integration, said the road to
the event had often been rocky, but all involved had jointly
shouldered the responsibility and seen it through to the end.
Cologne was an open, tolerant city, and the cultural center
would be a place for dialogue and togetherness.

3. (U) Former Cologne Lord Mayor Fritz Schramma, a supporter of
the Turkish-Muslim community throughout the process, spoke of
the wish, from the outset, to create a mosque and cultural
center that was transparent, open and welcoming. It would be,
he declared, a house for the future of Cologne and a place for
integration. He echoed the words of renowned Cologne architect
Paul Boehm, the mosque/cultural center's designer, who described
the mosque and cultural center as a place for people who are at
home in two worlds and two cultures. Representatives of the
Evangelical and Protestant churches also stressed the right of
every religion to have a place of worship and referred to the
"Cologne Compact for Freedom," in which all religious groups in
Cologne have pledged to work together against hate and prejudice.

4. (U) On behalf of the Turkish government, GOT Diyanet
President Ali Bardakoglu described the mosque and cultural
center not only as a success for Cologne's Muslim population,
but for all of Cologne's citizens and all Germans. Bardakoglou
further noted that the mosque would help lay the foundation for
mutual respect and set an example of religious freedom for the
world. He indicated that the GOT would make good on its pledge
to return St. Paul's Church in Tarsus, Turkey to use as a church
and a center for Christian study. The only discordant note
came from Turkish Minister of State Faruk Celik, who delivered a
speech more befitting a campaign rally. On the other hand,
DITIB President Sadi Arslan thanked all layers of the German
government and the public, describing the result as a clear
"yes" to co-existence and diversity, and a clear "no" to
segregation. The mosque, he pledged, would be a bridge between
yesterday and tomorrow.

WEINER

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