Once, Cologne had a mayor to be proud of. Konrad Adenauer, mayor of Cologne from 1917 to 1933, was a devout Catholic. An outspoken opponent of the Nazi regime (1933-1945), he played no political role in Germany until the end of the Second World War when the Americans reinstalled him as mayor of Cologne but the British dismissed him after a couple of weeks for “alleged incompetence.” Following this dismissal for “incompetence” he founded the German Christian-Democrat Party CDU and became the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (1949-1963) and the “father” of the modern, democratic Germany.
Cologne’s current mayor (since 2000), Fritz Schramma, is also a Christian-Democrat. He governs a city that is one of Germany’s oldest. Its Catholic Cathedral (the Dom) is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and until 1884, with its two spires of 157 metres, it was the tallest structure in the world. Cologne (“Köln” in German) is Germany’s fourth largest city, after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, but has dramatically changed since the days of the great Adenauer. 330,000 people, which is 36 percent of Cologne’s inhabitants, are immigrants, most of them Turks or people of Turkish descent. Mayor Schramma needs their support in order to remain in power.
Cologne’s Turks want to build Germany’s largest mosque. The building will have two minarets of 55 metres high. The mosque is being built by Ditib, the Cologne branch of Diyanet, the department of religious affairs of Turkey, which reports directly to the Turkish Prime Minister.
Last month, Mayor Schramma’s own CDU voted against the building project which it deemed “too provocative.” The mayor, however, did not vote not with his party because he is in favor of the mosque. As only the CDU (without the mayor) and the city party Pro Cologne (Pro-Köln) voted against the mosque, the project obtained the city council’s approval, albeit by a narrow margin.
In 2004, Pro Cologne, which grew out of a grassroots organisation of indigenous locals who oppose the mosque, obtained 4.7% of the votes and five of the 90 seats in the Cologne city council. The party, which is conservative, is being depicted by its adversaries as a “fascist” and/or “Nazi” grouping, though it has no links to German neo-Nazis. It has become the nucleus of Pro North Rhine Westphalia, a party on the state level (the state of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), to which Cologne belongs), and Pro Germany, a party on the federal level. Polls predict that Pro NRW may win up to 10% in next year’s state elections.
Today, Pro Cologne is holding an “Anti-Islamisation Conference” in Cologne. As soon as the party announced its intention to hold its rally, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) protested and OIC member Iran called on France, which currently chairs the European Union, to intervene and ban the “Islamophobic” event. German leftist organisations, including the trade unions and the churches, called for a counterdemonstration.
Jürgen Rüttgers, NRW’s prime minister (CDU) claims Pro Cologne is “against tolerance, reconciliation and humanity.” He called on people to demonstrate peacefully against the conference, which his friend, Mayor Schramma, calls “a huge stomach ache.”
The mayor is pleased with the counterdemonstration. “I am happy that Cologne shows its true face of tolerance,” he said, calling for “intolerance” to Pro Cologne. The mayor has asked the local shops to remain closed today and join the counterdemonstration. “Shut your windows and doors, lower your shutters. Make it clear to Pro Cologne and its camarilla: you are not welcome,” he said. Pointing out that “50% of Cologne’s children are German and 50% are of foreign origin,” the mayor added that Cologne is “probably the most tolerant city in Germany, but I hope that this time it will show itself to be intolerant.”
Yesterday, on the eve of the conference, “anti-fascists” attacked Pro Cologne sympathisers. Stones were thrown at a river cruiser on which the party intended to hold a press conference. Michael Kucherov, a 45-year old Jewish member of the federal executive board of Pro Germany, was beaten up on his way to the press conference. Unlike his predecessor, Konrad Adenauer, Cologne’s current mayor “lowers his shutters” when evil forces take over his city.