The Turkish Sultan Ahmed Mosque of Rhine-Westphalia, belonging to the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, was partially burnt down early this morning by an anonymous attacker who was caught on surveillance cameras pouring gas and systematically burning different parts of the mosque.
Isil Arslan, spokesperson of the organization to which the mosque belongs said “Upon Fajr prayer, fire was visible from afar to the town’s residents who immediately called the fire and police departments.”
Police investigations are being undertaken at the moment to verify or exclude the possibility of the incident being a hate crime.
This is not the first time this year a Turkish mosque has come under attack in Germany. The Suleymaniye Mosque in Dormagen in Northern Rhine-Westphalia was vandalized in December 2014 and again in January 2015, according to The World Bulletin.
Swastika signs and Islamophobic slurs were also drawn on the walls of the mosque in the January attack, including phrases such as, "Germany belongs to Germans” and “Muslim culture doesn’t belong in Germany.” The second attack came days after the infamous Charlie Hebdo attacks, and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu requested that EU countries treat the streak of attacks on Muslim mosques in Germany with the same level of seriousness as the Charlie Hebdo incident.
Following the latest attack on the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs expressed fear that the frequency of incidents of such nature is pushing Turkish and Muslim people living in Germany to be concerned about their safety and wellbeing. The organization has urged the German police investigations to speed up the process of retribution in order to restore a better sense of balance.
Last January, and in reply to islamophobic groups in Germany including PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), chancellor Angela Merkel said, “As a Chancellor my duty is to protect the vast majority of Muslims in Germany against general suspicions, and fight against violence in the name of Islam.” PEGIDA leader and chairman Lutz Bachmann, had to step down Jan. 22, after posting a “Hitler Selfie” of himself on social media. He was later reinstated as a co-chair three weeks later through a secret vote.
Based on figures supplied by German authorities, between 2001 and 2014 297 attacks targeting mosques have taken place in the country - including those built and run by the Turkish community. Meanwhile in the Netherlands, a masked man attacked a Turkish mosque last December, as part of a series of hate crimes apparently fueled by Dutch citizens joining ISIS.
According to Al Jazeera, more than one-third of the Netherlands' 475 mosques have experienced at least one incident of vandalism or aggression in the past 10 years, according to research by Ineke van der Valk - author of the book “Islamophobia and Discrimination."