It had been announced as a multicultural experiment prior to the actual arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants whom everyone in Germany expected would be speedily integrated into German society and its glorious universities. The University of Dortmund had opened an interfaith prayer hall with special rules. It had been named “raum der stille”, the room of silence, a prototype which was opened in many universities in Germany during the last two years.
Just twenty square meters, the walls painted green, a red carpet, two sofas, two chairs, a bookcase from Ikea. Minimalism of the “same God”. A strictly “neutral” space. You can find it in the University of Berlin as well as in Bremen. Students of all faiths, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims, could have found a gathering space there. But it did not fare very well.
Two days ago there was a terse announcement: “The attempt to create a non-religious room of silence has failed” said Eve Prost, the press officer of the University of Dortmund. Many students had complained that they were segregated by other Muslim students and forced to remain in the smaller part of the room, along with any women. Copies of the Koran were placed in the room despite the agreement, posted on the front door, that expressly forbade religious symbols. Muslim students had ordered women to wear the veil and give up perfumes.
At the University of Bochum, the “meditation room” was closed due to the presence in it of Salafists. Even the “prayer room” at the University of Essen, which had been billed as “a place of tolerance and peaceful co-existence”, was closed “since the prayer rooms are only used by one religious group” said the Rector, and it is not hard to imagine which god was worshiped by that group.
Goethe University in Frankfurt was luckier: the “house of silence” still exists, but only thanks to the fact that it was decided to legitimize separate prayers for men and women.
Germany is not new to syncretism experiments. The Evangelical Church of Königshardt-Schmachtendorf in Oberhausen recently offered the authorities to host a number of migrants. And to avoid appearing “offensive” by Muslims, the church abandoned the baptismal font and crosses.
In Petriplatz, in the central Mitte district of Berlin, is the “House of One”, a unique ecumenical building in Europe: a mosque, a church and a synagogue under the same roof. The building was built on the ruins of the old church of St. Peter, to witness the passing of the baton. They call it “religious amalgamation”.
Unfortunately it will end, as it always does, with a church turned into a sex shop and with the birth of a new mosque.
Is that the fate of Europe?