This film depicts the efforts of a group of Muslims in Germany who decide to build a mosque in Frankfurt despite all the problems on their way.
TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00
Narration: Everyone’s life is full of stories, stories that might be bitter or sweat. But some have a little bit different stories to tell, like this man.
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “My name is Önal Kaymakçı. I’m forty and I’m a lawyer.”
Narration: Here is Germany, a country that was reunified years ago after being split into East and West. Today, Germany is the heart of European economy and one of the eight industrial countries in the world. For many, it’s like a sweet dream to travel to this country and visit its tourist centers. Suffice for a product to have a “MADE IN GERMAN” label on; it will go like hot cakes. No need to talk about the educational, medical, food and welfare services; couldn’t be better! But this coin has yet another side and at this point the story of our film begins slowly.
80-odd years ago, Germany was very different from what this country looks like. A great recession had gripped the entire world and under that harsh circumstances the Germans were still facing the serious repercussions of losing in WWI.
At that point, some began to chant slogans like, “We are a great nation,” “This race can crack any problems if it wills,” “It’s enough to hold each other’s hands to rise from the ashes,” and slogans like these.
Today, even a little school boy knows to whom this solemn face belongs and what crimes he has committed. This is how history looks like.
But this footage dates back to the time none of those inhumane crime had happened and for many people in Germany, this solemn figure was like a guardian angel for the country. The fact is that as the National Socialist German Workers' Party, commonly referred to as the Nazi Party came to power, soon after Germany changed for the better. With public support this party had managed to obtain, many roads were made and many factories were built across the country so as to herald a period of rapid industrial development.
SOUNDBITE [German] Adolf Hitler, Leader of Nazi Party: “Before us, Germany is standing! Inside us, Germany is a throbbing heart! And behind us, the whole Germany is moving!”
TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00
Narration: But the party’s supremacist attitude went to extremes as it got more power. It came to this belief that not only Germany but the whole world belonged to the German race. At that time, they wanted to make the whole world “prosperous.”
After all that apocalyptic bloodshed, it became clear that not only didn’t the party make the world prosperous, they lay many German cities in ruins.
But as the war came to an end, the German intelligentsia convened to write a new law in order to stop politicians from unprincipled adventurism.
It’s said that the German Constitution after WWII is unrivalled. According to the very Constitution, people of any color, race and nationality are free in Germany in speech, dress code and religion; In short, they’re free in anything that doesn’t disturb public peace.
At first, the German authorities upheld the law vigorously but today after a lapse of 60-odd years they are slacking off a little. Why? Well, watch carefully.
Now against such a backdrop, we’re going to tell you the story of this man; a story completely relevant to whatever we’ve told you so far.
His name is Önal;Önal Kaymakçıborn in this city, Frankfurt. He’s a lawyer; a busy one. In the early autumn of 2007,the sun had just raised when Önal got a phone call, a strange fateful call that is the golden point of our story.
SOUNDBITE [German] Voice of a man: “Önal Kaymakçı and HasanShadmalek, are directors of a society who want to take steps forward.”
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “It’s not possible for a mosque located in the backyard of a house to be transparent and open for all. We want to build a mosque for everyone and allay public anxiety and showwith a transparent performance that an Islamic society that own a mosque is not different from a religious society run by Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or Christians.”
Narration: Well, the crux of the matter was what you saw in this brief report; that a young lawyer, or the main character of our story, wants to build a mosque in his own city, a job that may not seem that thrilling. But what is not in this report and ironically is very important and is the main reason we came here to see Önal is that this young man wants to build the mosque in a quarter two other mosques had already been built. Önal’s decision came in for criticism. There was a public will to nip the plan in the bud. Strangely enough, people were against building the mosque for the same reason Önal wanted to build it. The answer to this seemingly confusing riddle dates back to more than 40 years ago. 45 years ago, by a strange twist of fate, Ebadollah who wasn’t a well-travelled man in his country, had to go to Frankfurt in Germany, along with his young wife and his brothers.
TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00
Narration: They were not alone. A crowd as big as 500 thousand people from different parts of Turkey were on the move.
SOUNDBITE [German] Migrant to Germany: “Before my parents’ arrival in Germany, the country had struck deals with Turkey to receive its workforce and my parents migrated as labors to Germany.”
SOUNDBITE [German] German head of workers: “Hadn’t we have access to Turks or overseas workforce in our factories, we would have never been able to increase the level of our productivity as much as it is now.”
Narration: Cultural differences were significant; the migrants were uneducated and mostly from rural areas. There was no mutual understanding among the migrants and the locals. At times, this differences would create annoying and funny scenes. At other times, both sides would learn new things from each other.
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “I didn’t immigrate to Germany; I was born in this country in 1972.”
Narration: Up to the birth of children, life in the new country was bearable despite all the problems. The dream of getting rich and returning home was balm to their weary souls abroad. Ebadollah’s big, wooden suitcase was always at hand to be packed but its contents used to be changed from time to time. 20 years later, one day Önal came across this suitcase among a mountain of things in the basement. He didn’t need to ask his parents; He himself was the reason why the suitcase was covered in dust. This has always been the way of the world; before having a child, a family’s plan is far from reality. The fact is that Önal’s family have been in Germany for 40 years; at first, neither the Germans nor the Turkish labors thought that the cooperation would last so long.
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “I only know German society and I’ve never lived in Turkey. My knowledge of Turkey comes from my short trips to this country during the holidays. I’m always happy when I travel to Turkey but I always had this feeling that Germany was not our land. We grew up in this society with the German language. At home, we talked in Turkish, outside home and at school we talked in German with our friends. Thank God, we were successful at school and could find a proper status in society. “Religious teachings” was the only course at school different between Christian students and students of other religions.
For Christians and Jews, there were Catholic, Protestant and Jewish religious teachings while we Muslim students had to go to the schoolyard and therefore our thirst for religious teachings never quenched at school.”
Narration: It was difficult for children to appreciate their families’ concern. The only thing they could realize was that school and outside environment was different from home and inside environment. But unlike the children, the adults were fully aware of the situation. They tried to gather together for different occasions, every night in someone’s house. After a while, they came to this conclusion that it was better to have an independent place for that kind of gathering and they did so.
TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “I remember that when I was a child, there was a clericwhom my father along with his other friends used to invite from Turkey to here, especially for occasions like Muharram or Ramadan. They were the first religious rituals held with the presence of a cleric.”
SOUNDBITE [German] Unknown man in Parliament (maybe): “In our country, there are about 2.5 million of workers coming from abroad. These workers along with their families have formed a great minority in our country. But dear ladies and gentlemen, this is a vital issue to consider and we must know why the capacity of our society to attract more people from abroad has been so limited.”
Narration: The new German Constitution written after WWII underlines that all citizens have the same rights in the country and there is no difference between white-color workers and blue-color workers or between Christians and Muslims but things are different in reality. Migrants, in particular those from outside Europe, had a tough time, though they would turn the wheel of the country’s industry. And since they were not able to communicate properly and defend their own rights, misunderstandings and the consequent problems were parts of their everyday life.
Conversation [German] Some men in TV show: “Good morning!
Last week, we talked about irregular verbs and today we want to know more about German grammar through a simple sentence. First, I read the sentence I have chosen for you and then you must repeat the sentence correctly after me:“That Turk packed his things!”
The Turks’ Park
This simple sentence is still very problematic for the Turks: “Turks,Go!”
SOUNDBITE [German] Voice of a man: “We are looking after the revival of Nazism in Germany. We want to overthrow democracy and then get rid of occupying forces and finally establish a new nation based on Nazism.”
Narration: 1980s and 1990s were difficult decades for many migrants in Germany. Extremist nationalist groups had become active again, not only in Germany but across Europe. Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Turks, Japanese, everyone with their origin outside Europe could be a potential target for these Neo-Nazi groups.
European politicians thought that they were fighting Communism giving the nationalist groups a free rein. Neo-Nazi groups had military branches. Neo-Nazi groups never managed to become popular in society because of their irrational behavior and extremist violence. They just afflicted migrants with many problems.
TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “When you enter university, you encounter the outside world seriously. We wanted to be active students at university. Therefore, that era was a good effective era for me because I learned many things about how to communicate with others.”
Narration: That difficult situation became even more difficult for Önal. In 1998, his father, Ebadollah, passed away. For a second generation of Muslim migrants whose past and beliefs are not in line with the world they live in, the main question of life is this: “Who am I?” For them, there are only three ways: First, to live in the past and seclusion; two, to sever the roots and dissolve in society; third, to know and defend the beliefs while being part of society. The hero of our story chose the third way. He didn’t know that things would happen in a way that many people would deem his beliefs not as a problem but as the biggest threat to society.
Narration: Our lives are full of questions, many are small, many are also very big; questions that with time and life experience, constantly evolve. But there is one eternal question that all people ask regardless of their position in life and that is: “Who am I?”
The answer to this question can cause absolute despair in a person in a way that may significantly effect their life, or worse, drive a person to harm the lives of others.
This man is the hero of our story. He is a young lawyer by the name of Önal Kaimakchi. Önal was born and raised in Frankfurt, but he is not from Germany originally. Önal’s parents immigrated to here many years ago from Turkey and decided to stay.
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “The ‘Islamisation of our homeland’… it’s the slogan of racists.”
Narration: For a second generation immigrant like Önal, the most important questions in life are, Who am I? What’s my identity as a Muslim? Where do my cultural and religious roots come from? And how can I become a useful citizen by understanding and utilizing these roots? These were confronting questions for Önal and his friends, a great challenge; and they seeking answers turned the city of Frankfurt on its head. Their story begins when the world changed on September 11, 2001.
The September 11 attacks changed the lives of many Muslims living in western countries. Islam became the subject of intense debate and many wanted to know more about it... to know what part of this religion could sanction the massacre of people?
Delving into the international consequences of the 9/11 attack takes us away from our story, but what is necessary to understand here is that in the blink of an eye, discussions about Muslim migrants changed completely in Germany. Before the incident occurred, immigration discussions centered on the race of immigrants flowing into Germany; however, after September 11, Islam was suddenly the main focus of fear-based discussions.
The fervor of seeking information on Islam and the propaganda of Islamophobia engulfed most parts of the country, and escalated day by day.
SOUNDBITE [German] A woman shouting: “I feel ashamed, where are they? What do they want in our country?”
SOUNDBITE [German] Old man shouting: “He acts against the democratic laws of our country.”
SOUNDBITE [German] A Muslim responding: “How do you know?”
SOUNDBITE [German] Old man shouting: “He wants to impose sharia law in Germany.”
SOUNDBITE [German] A Muslim responding: “In Germany? That’s a lie!”
SOUNDBITE [German] Old man shouting: “Sure!”
SOUNDBITE [German] A Muslim responding: “Prove your allegations!”
SOUNDBITE [German] Old man shouting: “This topic has been explained in many videos on Youtube!”
SOUNDBITE [German] A Muslim responding: “Where?! Show me one of these videos!”
SOUNDBITE [German] Old man shouting: “Be quiet!”
TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00
SOUNDBITE [German] A Muslim responding: “Who has an iPhone here?! Is there anyone who has an iPhone?”
Narration: The incident coincided with the time that Önal and his friends founded their group, naming it: the Fatima Zahra Association (Peace be upon her).
This association was not exclusive to Turkish membership, but had members of many nationalities and ethnicities.
Pakistanis, Iraqis and Iranians were eager to open debate and conversation with their German brothers and sisters, but they faced difficult obstacles in the way of getting their word out and a main reason was that existing centers created by first-generation immigrants were but small gatherings designed to talk about the sorrow of living away from their homelands.
Narration: Based on data from German authorities, in this country alone there are more than 3,000 Islamic centers; or as Germans call them, Islamic associations, that are officially active. And with the ignorance in the West over the beliefs of Muslims, public opinion had become extremely sensitive concerning these centers. They would ask: What are you doing in these places? What are you teaching your kids there? Why are the doors of these centers always closed to outsiders?
Just as Önal and his friends had reached a dead end, events occurred that revived their hope.
Among the clerics that would visit their mosque from time to time, from Turkey was a clergyman named Sheikh Hamzeh. He was considered the savior of the association. With powerful sermons in his first appearances, he managed to change the atmosphere entirely.
In his sermon the sheikh said, “The situation has changed, but remember that the situation has changed for ‘you’ not for ‘Islam’. The reality of Islam is one thing and your situation as a Muslim is another. You should take care of yourself and don’t worry about Islam. If Islam has a true nature, if it presents a way for the salvation of mankind, then it knows how to connect with the nature of the people. If there is a problem it’s because of we the Muslims. None of you is a noble symbol to show the true nature of Islam. These people are right to look at you with suspicion. Where you are seated is not a mosque, this place doesn’t deserve to be called a mosque. If you want to save the honor of Islam, you should build a symbol and a place that deserves your beliefs. In this place you can’t even defend yourself, let alone Islam”.
The sermon of Sheikh Hamzeh, delivered during Ramadan of 2006, impacted profoundly on worshipers. No one could imagine then that by the end of one year, that small group would donate 300,000 Euros to buy land for the construction of a mosque.
TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “When we made this decision, we had no more than 5,000 Euros in our account. We put forward a referendum to our gathering. The questions were: Are you ready? Do you want to have a mosque? Do you want to make this dream come true and our ideas to become reality? And the answer from the people was, “Yes, we want this!” And we said if you want it you have to help us financially. Thank God, with the grace of the holy month of Ramadan, every family announced its readiness to contribute and they donated cash of more than one thousand Euros. Even many young women and brides came in and donated their gold and jewelry to help us fund the building of this mosque.”
Narration: Önal accepted the responsibility for finding a suitable place for the construction of the mosque. He would film the locations he visited and he would show the footage to the sheikh and to the others. One of these options – this one - was an old building near the heart of Frankfurt. Sheikh chose this place, but it was valued at twice the price of what had been donated.
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “We visited different Muslim countries. We visited our Muslim and Shia brothers and sisters in London and Kuwait; we also visited religious leaders in Qom. We even sought the help of our brothers and sisters from European groups and associations.”
Narration: Sheikh Hamzeh wasn’t a simple cleric; everybody knew him as an ideologist and a revolutionary. After the Islamic Revolution he spent many years in Iran. Everyone knew that the sheikh was under the leadership of Imam Khomeini and that his ideas were very close to the Imam’s. Sheikh used to say that you should never be satisfied with the minimum. You need something much more than a mosque – you need a big Islamic centre that includes a mosque. Curiously, this idea helped Önal a lot. When he went to the banks with a complete plan that included a kindergarten and some apartments, too, he received a 3 million dollar loan. Although it was hard work to prepare the financial plan, money wasn’t the only problem.
SOUNDBITE [German] TV Reporter: “Hello Mr. Sayam. We are from Spiegel Media. You were in Bonn before. What were you doing there?”
SOUNDBITE [German] Sayam: “That’s none of your business!”
SOUNDBITE [German] TV Reporter: “Mr. Sayam, what are you doing?”
SOUNDBITE [German] Sayam: “Give me the camera!”
SOUNDBITE [German] TV Reporter: “Mr. Sayam!
The attack caused thousands of Euros worth of financial damages and an accusation for trying to beat up the reporter.”
SOUNDBITE [German] Sayam: “Interview?!”
Narration: Post 9/11, the situation in Germany had changed dramatically. Angry, raging Muslims with their long shaggy beards, intentionally or unintentionally, had become the villains and stars of Western media. These controversial individuals, everyday in the name of Islam and Muslims, celebrated in street carnivals and caused discomfort for local Germans.
SOUNDBITE [German] A Woman, German Citizen: “This is a public place, not a place for public prayer!”
Narration: A confrontation was brewing. On one side of the street were the extremist Muslims and on the other side, there were the racist neo-Nazis.
SOUNDBITE [German] Extremist Muslim: “We will not stop till these caricatures are removed!”
Narration: It appeared as if these two groups were mortal enemies, but in reality, neither could persist without the other. Whenever someone criticized the fearful situation, the answer from the majority of German authorities was the same.
SOUNDBITE [German] German Authority, woman: “Extremism is not illegal in the German Federal Republic.”
Narration: Social crimes rates kept rising and every day the story grew with new dimensions added.
TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00
SOUNDBITE [German] German protestor: “We want to protect our rights that guarantee our liberty.”
Narration: It wasn’t a dream. Just like the extremists, the intellectuals and the Western authorities entered the scene and propagated a type of extremist Islam in the media that had nothing to do with the real nature of the religion. And there was something else happening that Önal couldn’t understand at all - Despite the hatred geared toward Muslims in the society via the media, the number of people converting to Islam was increasing quite substantially, not only in Germany, but across all European countries.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Voice of a woman converting to Islam: “I bear witness that there is no god except Allah. And I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”
Narration:This extraordinary development reminded Önal of what Sheikh had told him, that ‘the Muslims should be worried about themselves not Islam’. Every man sooner or later feels the necessity to know what his real identity as a human is. What is life? What is death? People with their beliefs and cultures, will one day bombard themselves with a sea of questions, which come from their very nature.
SOUNDBITE [German] A Man Talking to His Kid: “Samira, when you want to eat, what do you say first?”
Narration: September 11 had turned into shocking motivator for people to get to know Islam better. And now, many of those people who at first investigated this religion in order to deny it surprisingly would come to see that the answer to many of their questions are hidden in Islam. In spite of this, the distinctive growth in number of Muslims wouldn’t satisfy the non-Muslim intellectuals.
People like Önal were worried that with the mistaken guidance of the extremists, some new Muslim converts would head down the dark path - those people who found Islam to be exactly what they thought it would be.
SOUNDBITE [German] A man speaking to the crowd: “Is there anyone here today that wants redemption? Someone that wants to convert to Islam? There is one person over there. God is great! There is another person here… takbir! Abuhamze! There is another, now there are three, praise be to Allah.”
Hey Germans, we want to enter your society.
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15… okay another one came, 16 people. Now we say together the shahadatein…okay?”
SOUNDBITE [German] A man in a video: “If you see that your parents don’t want to hear anything about Islam, they don’t hear it, they hate Islam and ignore you, and you should leave them.”
TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00
Narration: As the months passed, people began to see horrendous scenes on their TV screens that looked more like a nightmare than real life: Mothers who had lost their children, whose loved ones were suffering somewhere in the mountains and valleys of Pakistan and Afghanistan; and later, the devastating war unleashed on Syria involving scores of new Muslim converts who had lost their sense of Islam to the claws of extremism.
SOUNDBITE [German] German Neo-Nazi: “Germany should remain a catholic Christian-dominated country. And on the larger scale, Europe should remain a Christian and catholic continent.”
Narration: The day that Önal and his friends decided to build the mosque they thought that only the neo-Nazi’s would confront them on it, but from the day they had purchased the land and sought permission to build from the municipality, they soon realized that not only would a small extremist minority be against their wishes, but the majority of German society.
The hatred created as a result of the hideous acts of Islamic extremists and their Western backers, and the resulting problems that manifested in societies caused the German population to fear and buy in to Islamophobia, against anything that could be considered a symbol of Islam.
For many Germans it no longer mattered if they were branded neo-Nazis or racists, they felt that if they stayed at home and did nothing that they would be risking the freedom and security of future generations.
SOUNDBITE [German] A woman protestor: “We are scared!”
Narration: And it was exactly the same feeling that Önal and his friends had. They wanted their children to be useful and successful citizens in society in a free Germany, distant from tensions. Önal knew that if this great wall of distrust was not eliminated, people will soon enough adopt the same position towards them as what they have adopted toward the extremists.
Narration:What you are about to hear is a true story.It’s about an important incident that took place in the German city of Frankfurt in 2007. The incident and ensuing chaos were all caused because of what a young lawyer and his friends wanted to do; an action that they never thought would cause so much controversy.
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “Out of curiosity we asked about the cost of police operations on that day. The head of Frankfurt’s Police obviously didn’t want to tell us the cost, but we were informed that it cost them several million euros.”
Narration: The September 11 attacks changed the lives of many Muslims in Western countries. The blame leveled at Islam, and the promotion of Islamophobia elevated hate speech, which encouraged extremist views and actions. Anti-Islam rhetoric placed Muslims and Western societies at odds with one another.
In Frankfurt, the financial heart of the European continent, there was a small group named after Fatima Zahra (PBUH), who was the daughter of the Islamic Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), and it was called the Fatima Zahra Association. Members of the association, in order to defend their beliefs, decided to enter into a dialogue with their society. When sheikh Hamzeh, the cleric of the group, was informed of this situation, he encouraged them to build a large Islamic center as a first step; a center that could stand against extremism and also a place to open a dialogue with German society. This was at a time when public opinion felt a degree of hatred toward anything that could be considered a symbol of Islam.
Sheikh Hamzeh knew well that he was guiding the group down a perilous path, but there was no other option, the group wanted to establish a place in society. Their first major step was to open a dialogue with the residents of the neighborhood in which they wanted to construct the new building in order to receive their approval. It was here that the hero of our story Mr. Önal Kaimakchi assumed responsibility of the task at hand.
Önal was a famous lawyer in the city of Frankfurt. He knew that everything was against them. For the sheikh, Önal and others, success in this quest meant proving a belief and a vision; something that might solve numerous problems of Muslims in the West.
TIME CODE: 45:00_50:00
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “Because of this and because of the importance of respecting people under Islam, from the first instance we sought dialogue with the people of the neighborhood. It is our belief that when a person wants to become established somewhere, first he should present himself to the neighbors. He should explain who he is, what he wants to do, and what he is going to build there.”
Narration:The hard work was underway; however, Önal was not alone on this difficult mission. Malik, as the representative of the Pakistani members of the Fatima Zahra Association, is accompanying Önal all the way, and so it was that he joined Önal in the meetings with residents of the neighborhood. Both were almost certain that the initial reactions from residents would not be approving. There were obvious reasons for this discomfort, firstly, the place where the mosque was to be built was right in front of an orthodox church and the head representative of all orthodox churches in Frankfurt had already announced his rejection to the construction of the Islamic center. Besides that, two other mosques had already been built in the neighborhood. One of them was always crowded and noisy while the other, on the contrary, was always empty.
SOUNDBITE [German]A man: “Whatever you say here is not important and will not help to achieve an understanding because if a third mosque is going to be built in this neighborhood, a forth, a fifth and a sixth will follow.”
SOUNDBITE [German]Wolfgang Hübner, Nationalist political activist: “It was a hot summer’s day. The atmosphere inside the meeting was mildly tense. Many suggestions were being put forward; however, there was a resounding rejection of the construction of a new mosque In the Hawzen based on the opinion that there were already two problematic, and controversial mosques there. And now with the proposed construction of a third mosque in the neighborhood, it was feared that Hawzen would become known as the neighborhood of mosques in Frankfurt!”
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “We tried to listen to their arguments and understand them; we looked at them as people who are opposed to our plan and we tried to understand what was going on; we aspired to look at the subject in a sociological context and to fathom what the cause of this opposition was. The result of the investigations showed that adding a new element to a society that has a particular social and cultural texture, can cause fear and anxiety. And this fear of a foreign infiltration had caused a negative reaction in the people.”
Narration:Despite the opposition, Önal and his friends continued their dialogue with the residents of the neighborhood, Meetings that little by little turned opposition into a kind of curiosity.
As Önal described it, this building would look more like a cultural complex than an Islamic mosque: a conference room for free discussions, a library, cooking classes, a gym and even a kindergarten, facilities that were designed for the use of all residents of the neighborhood, not just for Muslims. Despite this curiosity, in forthcoming meetings the debate was redirected toward something more significant.
SOUNDBITE [German]A man opposing the plan: “I think these discussions are insignificant. What’s important behind this problem is this: In the past there have been debates and fights about the construction of a mosque in Frankfurt. People migrated to Germany in the fifties and more came later and stayed here and are living here; our society has transformed. And that’s exactly the problem! The problem is that in this country, for 20 years they kept telling us ¨these are foreign workers and one day they will return to their homelands¨, but that was a lie. Not only did they not return to their home countries, but now they want to build mosques here!”
Narration: At first glance, the critics did not appear wrong - especially because the problems and controversies surrounding minorities were not few.
German politicians were also puzzled. What position should they take in response to this chaotic situation?
And this story has yet another dimension to it for those people who work with numbers and see the proposal based on cost versus benefit. The Germany of the twenty first century had become one of the eight industrial giants of the world; a country that ranked first in many indices of progress. Those who looked at this aspect more openly realized that one of the reasons behind the success of their country compared to others in the world is due to their multicultural society.
TIME CODE: 50:00_55:00
Narration: In Germany there are centers, which for many years have been trying to solve the social problems, which exist between the Muslim minority and German society.
Some of these centers were so successful in their work that they achieved popularity among the people of that society. The number of visitors to centers like this is many, and diverse: From tourists, journalists, and investigators, to simply curious people who find the traditions of the Muslims attractive and enticing.
The gap between this calm and friendly Islamic atmosphere and what people see from Islamic extremists within societies and the media portrayal is so huge and questionable that these centers are obliged to spend a significant amount of time responding to the doubts that arise.
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Ayatollah Ramezani, Head of the Imam Ali (P) Islamic Center in Hamburg: “We observe it in many instances that the people who ask questions, their questions are very superficial. A superficial look at Islam tends to bring out superficial questions, but if we look at Islam, and we look at the Islamic, monotheist and moral subjects profoundly; and we explain the manner in which a Muslim should interact with a non-Muslim; and on top of that we highlight the religion’s rationality, that the religion heralds liberty, the religion heralds justice, the religion heralds spiritualism, the religion heralds the start of the security from within the individual, it says that if this person has attained spiritual security then he can shift this enlightenment into society.”
SOUNDBITE [German]Wolfgang Thierse, ex-president of the German Bundestag: “Which cultural interpretation from Islam is acceptable here - and that has a compatibility with our situation, that helps us live together in harmony despite our differences? This is the issue, it is one of tolerance.
Which Islam? The Islam that in order to justify violence is being used wrongly? In my opinion this Islam doesn’t belong to German society. It’s exactly like the rejected interpretation of Christianity that is being used wrongly in order to justify violence. And so it is we who have to make the right decision.”
Narration:You are probably thinking to yourself that if such a successful centers already exists, why should Önal and his friends try so hard to have another Islamic center constructed. The answer will be provided shortly!
SOUNDBITE [German] Guido Steinberg, Senior International And Security Advisor Of Germany: “I can with near certainty say that the security forces have the Hamburg Islamic center under constant surveillance.”
Narration:Understanding this topic is difficult. In Germany the extremists are so free to do whatever they want yet on the other hand many successful Islamic centers that are connecting the society to the Muslims are under much pressure and surveillance by the national security forces. It is not simple at all. In this situation, too, another question that is important comes to mind and that concerns the freedom the people have to discuss the issues and doubts they have about Islam.
TIME CODE: 55:00_01:00:00
SOUNDBITE [German] A man speaking: “Tonight we don’t plan to repeat the previous debates about the Hawzen neighborhood. Our intention tonight is to continue the debate about the national and regional dimensions of the case.”
Narration:One of the things that influenced the neighborhood opinion to positively change toward Önal and his friends was that they observed priests, sociologists and representatives of their own political parties in attendance in the meetings defending this plan.
SOUNDBITE [German] A defender of the plan: “In my opinion we should agree to the construction of the mosque. The reason is that it serves to better connect and integrate Muslims living in this country into our society, and merge them into an inseparable part of the society. The slogan of this year’s intercultural week is related to this. It’s called, “Having a share and sharing”.”
SOUNDBITE [German] A defender of the plan: “The disputes that have eventuated since the proposal of a new mosque are opportunities to discuss immigration and convergence issues. These disputes manifest very positive results that can improve public opinion about Muslims.”
SOUNDBITE [German] A man speaking: “Niklas Luhmann, a contemporary sociologist, made an interesting quote about conflict, he said, “Every conflict and dispute is part of the solution!””
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “We expected a great wave of debate around this issue. But we didn’t expect the scope to become so vast! So vast that for months it was a top story in the press! People from far and wide entered the discussion, among them were populist right wing politicians who attempted to attract people to gain their support under the pretext of rejecting the construction of the mosque.
“Because of women’s rights I oppose the project of the mosque construction!”, that’s the so-called reason why one of the right wing politicians opposed the construction of the mosque.”
Narration:The outcome of this debate is significant for Ms. Petra Roth, mayor of Frankfurt. At the end of the day it is under her authority to approve the construction of the mosque. The importance and awareness of Frankfurt as the financial heart of Europe had forced Ms. Petra Roth to take a neutral stance in the matter.
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “But on the other hand we had the support of some political parties, from right conservatives to Christian conservatives and liberals and social democrats and even the leftist parties!”
Narration: An interesting observation was that at the head of the supporters of Önal there were leftist politicians. These were people who did not adhere to any religion. One of the highest hopes on the opponent’s side was the stance of the head representative of the orthodox churches of Frankfurt: that the existence of a large Islamic center, right in front of their orthodox church might be considered a confrontation of religions and seen as a very disturbing problem.
SOUNDBITE [German]Father Kopulos, Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church: “As people we try to organize everything very meticulously in our minds, but sometimes we must accept that God may think and organize things differently.”
Narration:Despite the hopes of the opponents, father Ziliaskopoulos, who might have the most influence against the construction of this mosque, had become one of its most fierce supporters. The open and friendly behavior by the members of the Fatima Zahra center had convinced Father Ziliaskopoulos to look more profoundly into the religious beliefs of Önal.
SOUNDBITE [German]Father Kopulos, Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church: “I hope everything will work out; that here not only a mosque, but also a community center will be constructed that may fortify the relations between people, and also increase respect for the Shias beliefs of Hazrat Ali (PBUH).”
TIME CODE: 01:00:00_01:05:00
Narration:Sheikh was hopeful. He had hopes that this group of people, little by little, is finding itself; that in the face of adversity, it is no longer afraid; and that it defends what it believes in, in the most appropriate way possible.
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “Mr. Malik and I discussed these things in a very frank and transparent way in at least 50 meetings. The reaction of our neighbors, public opinion and also the church located beside our mosque to these talks was very positive and the transparency and honesty portrayed by us was praised as being noble.”
Narration:On the morning of October 19th, 2007, Önal as always, went to his office. First, he watered the flowers, then read the latest news for some minutes and finally went on to do his daily work attending his client’s files. Önal had no idea of what was about to happen. At the end of the day he received an unexpected phone call from the office of the Mayor of Frankfurt, Ms. Petra Roth.
Narration: This documentary is not about the life of Sheikh Hamzeh, it’s the story of a magical seed that he planted in the heart of the people. The hero of our story is actually a young Lawyer named Önal. Under the guidance of Sheikh, Önal and his friends decided to build a big Islamic centre in their city, Frankfurt though it was at a time when public opinion was against any new additions that were symbolic of Islam.
Önal and his friends from the beginning never gave up. For months they organized meetings and debates with residents of the neighborhood, intellectuals, representatives of the major political parties and people of different religions, as well as with the authorities. They took a lot of insults and were often humiliated, but they never gave up. Their speeches and the work that they were planning to do became the headline of media outlets in Frankfurt.
Opponents, alarmed at how the situation was getting out of their control, decided to end the plan for the construction of the Islamic centre in a massive public demonstration.
SOUNDBITE [German] Peter Gartner, Leftist Political Activist: “On that day, First I tried to observe the incidents. I entered the ranks of the anti-Nazi protesters. Then I went toward the police barricades and there I had the opportunity to talk to some police officers. I found out that they have sent reinforcement from different parts of the country. They themselves didn’t know what was going on!”
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “The demonstration of the neo-Nazis and other right wing extremists was taking place with the participation of about 100 people.
On the other side, around one thousand opponents of the neo-Nazis participated in the protests: Sunnis, Shias, Christians, Jews, atheists, leftists, syndicates, etc…”
SOUNDBITE [German] Peter Gartner, Leftist Political Activist: “Police had adopted security measures to minimise potential confrontation and clashes between the opposite groups.”
TIME CODE: 01:05:00_01:10:00
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “More than one thousand police officers attended. There were so many officers, almost as many as the number of protesters. Out of curiosity we asked about the cost of police operations for that day. The head of Frankfurt police obviously didn’t want to tell us anything about the costs, but we were informed that it cost them several million Euros - almost as much as what the total cost of the construction of the mosque would be. We joked and told the police: if you had given us the money that you spent today, we would have forgotten about building the mosque! Obviously, it was just a joke!
We actually participated in the anti-neo-Nazi demonstration as guests! We weren’t the organizers and planners of this protest. And as far as was aware, there wasn’t going to be such a demonstration.”
SOUNDBITE [German] Professor Joachim Valentin, Member of the Higher Academy of the Catholic Church in Frankfurt: “What came out of the demonstration was this: powerful groups like syndicates, churches and the mayor of Frankfurt came out to support the construction of the mosque. And after that demonstration, we didn’t see any influential opposition.”
Narration: July 22nd, 2008, nine months after the demonstrations, and once all the technical and legal papers for the construction of the Islamic centre had been completed, Önal went to Frankfurt City Hall, and moments later came out with official permission for the construction of the mosque. Without stopping, he went straight to the house of Sheikh Hamzeh, but before he could reach the house, he was informed that Sheikh had suffered a heart attack and has been taken to hospital.
Precisely one day after the members of the Fatima Zahra Organisation received their permission for the construction of the new Islamic centre, Sheikh Hamzeh passed away. It was as if he had wanted to wait just long enough to see how the seed that he had planted would bear fruit.
The beginning of the construction of the mosque; however, was not the end of the story. On the contrary, for Önal and friends it was the start of a long journey of frustrations. The highs and lows experienced by them could indeed be the subject of another documentary.
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “Dear guests, we would like to invite you to accompany us and support us in this project. A most important goal is that all citizens of Frankfurt love their city and consider it their hometown. In order to achieve this, it is essential all citizens feel that their identity is being recognized not only as individuals, but also that their religion be respected.
Achieving this objective will not be possible by temporarily changing the use of factories and stores, but by building beautiful structures: churches, synagogues, temples and also mosques. Hazrat Fatima Zahra mosque has this essence, where the citizens of Frankfurt warmly welcome those people who behave appropriately and transparently. Based on this experience we will continue our efforts.”
SOUNDBITE [German] George Owhan, Minister of Convergence of the Hesse: “As the final word, I say an often-repeated phrase, but still a correct and profound one: “When someone builds a house it means that he wants to stay. You are building a house here. I wish you every success and ask that we not let the Hazrat Fatima Mosque be only a place of gathering for Muslims, but a place welcomed to all residents of the Hawzen neighborhood and Rüdelheim and seen as an esteemed public facility for the entire city of Frankfurt to be proud of.”
TIME CODE: 01:10:00_01:15:00
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “The new Hazrat Fatima Zahra (PBUH) Mosque”
Narration: This building under construction consists of different parts: a conference room for free discussion, a library, cooking classes, a gym, a kindergarten...and it has a clear message to the people: by building this place, Muslims want to forge a friendship with the wider community and want to clear the way for dialogue. People understand these things perfectly and more readily than the authorities, security agencies or politicians.
SOUNDBITE [German] Wolfgang Hübner, Nationalist political activist: “I used to think, and I still think now, that Mr. Kaimakchi is not what he professes to be. In addition to that, other information has come to light from critics: for example, we read on the internet that the ideology of this group is based on that of Ayatollah Khomeini and the leader of Iran. And as we said before, everything about the Hazrat Fatima Association is vague and non-transparent; and this non-transparency crystallises for me in Mr. Kaimakchi. Anyway, Mr. Kaimakchi has become famous in the public arena - he has met the mayor of Frankfurt and because of that I consider him to be the ‘popular Muslim of Frankfurt’. Mr. Kaimakchi, a ‘Muslim showman’!”
Narration: This young man and his friends proved that if a person believes persistently in something and stands by his ideals and objectives, his dreams will be achieved one day. It’s not necessary to deny something based on conflicting interests or stray from the path of moderation in order to defend one’s beliefs. They were convinced about the righteousness of their path and defended it in the best way they could, in a way that attracted public opinion as well as various elites of society and gradually convinced others that not only should they support this project, but that influence coming from this centre could work toward solving wider social problems.
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Ayatollah Ramezani, Head of the Imam Ali (P) Islamic Center in Hamburg: “Contemplation, wisdom, morality, spirituality are issues that in the world today are vitally important, especially for those people who seek to learn about Islam. What we should strive for is to educate the people with these teachings correctly. Still, there remains a superficial perspective about Islam. We must confront and fight this superficial perspective.”
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “Imam Ali said, “People hate what they don’t know”. We try to bring Islam closer to the people of Germany in order that they may become acquainted with Islamic principles thus turning any existing hatred or fear into expressions of friendship and love.”
SOUNDBITE [German] Malik Shimshad Hussein, Member of the board of directors of the Hazrat Fatima Zahra (PBUH) Centre: “The mosque that we are building is not only for the Shia, it’s for all Muslims, and Jews and Christians and we welcome their presence. The door of dialogue and debate is open for everyone and we are ready to fulfil this duty with strong commitment.”
Narration: The construction of the Islamic centre was in a way a pretext to nurture a closer relationship between the members of the centre and its religious leaders, a relationship that in many cases was resolving and promising.
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “We have received permissions from different religious leaders: Ayatollah Ramezani, the representative of the Guardianship of the Jurist (vali Faghih), gave us permission to use the khums (wells) in the construction of the Islamic Centre; the representative of Ayatollah Sistani, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, and later Ayatollah Ardebili also gave us various permissions.”
TIME CODE: 01:15:00_01:20:00
Narration: Even during a period where a lack of funds had temporarily brought the construction of the centre to a halt, there were the Marjas (Islamic lawmakers) that persuaded a group of wealthy Muslims to contribute to the cost of construction so that it may continue forward. But for Önal and his friends their connection with the religious leaders was of far greater importance than these other matters. The depth of meaning of this is hidden in this image.
SOUNDBITE [German] Son of Önal: “Father, that’s you! Are they applauding you? I know this man. I also know this man.”
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “Who is he?”
SOUNDBITE [German] Son of Önal: “Önal Kaimakchi. I only know him.”
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “You should kiss me not just shake my hand!”
SOUNDBITE [German] Son of Önal: “Kiss?”
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “Yes, because you love your father.”
SOUNDBITE [German] Son of Önal: “No!”
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “No?!”
Narration: Many years ago when Haj Ebadollah, the father of Önal left his country and settled in Germany, all he wished for was that his children should not forget their roots, and the connection to the religious clerics ensured this.
When the streets were occupied by the extremists and many Muslims in fear began denying their faith, it was the connection with the clerics that protected the faith of this group and demonstrated how they should defend who they are.
For Önal and his friends the connection to the clerics was a vital part of life, it was viewed as a guarantee for a brighter future for their children.
The story of the construction of the Islamic centre became so controversial however that the authorities of Frankfurt, in order to avoid escalating tensions, decided to establish a Council of Religions - a powerful group consisting of representatives of different religions; members who in addition to knowing their religion profoundly, were well informed of what they were up against in confronting extremism.
Father Ziliaskopoulos was elected president of the council and the vice-presidency was awarded to Önal Kaimakchi. This young lawyer had now become an influential Muslim, but what was really the secret behind his success?
SOUNDBITE [German] Father Kopulos, Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church: “His honesty, and the fact that Mr. Kaimakchi has concluded that his home is in Germany, that his future is here, and that future awaits his children - a future that is on one hand German and the other, Shia.”
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “We all share the same history and a same origin, with our own culture and traditions and especially religions. You can’t deny this origin and we don’t have the intention to do that. We desire to preserve and nurture our origins, but at the same time we welcome with open arms the new country that we have adopted. Germany is our new home and as citizens of this country we feel responsible for it.”
SOUNDBITE [German] Wolfgang Hübne, Nationalist political activist: “Mr. Kaimakchi is someone who can present his arguments perfectly and appear in public with power. He is a lawyer and can speak very well. And in my opinion the media also was successful at directing favourable attention towards him. Despite this, I think that Mr. Kaimakchi does not represent at all, the ideal example for the Muslim society of Germany. He is Shia, which is a small religious sect.”
Narration: Mr. Kaimakchi, apart from being a member of the board of directors of the Hazrat Fatima Zahra Centre, which represents Muslims in the Council of Religions of Frankfurt, also represents the Muslim minority in the state of Hesse in Germany. He is the speaker of another important council also.
TIME CODE: 01:20:00_01:24:13
In 2009, both major and minor Shia associations throughout Germany united under one association - This group is active across Germany. Önal, as speaker of the council visits each city in Germany and gives consultations to the Muslims in an effort to improve connection with the society. Önal sincerely wants to help these groups just as Sheikh Hamzeh helped the small mosque of Fatima Zahra, by planting a magical seed in the heart of the people.
SOUNDBITE [German] Önal Kaymakçı, Lawyer: “We have finished one of the two buildings completely. We have 14 apartments, all of which have been rented out. God willing, in the future we will have special facilities in some of these apartments. On the ground floor we have built a kindergarten that is not only for our kids, but also the neighborhood children so Muslims and non-Muslims benefit. Thank God, owing to the funds acquired by renting out the apartments, we can complete construction of the second building.
The second building consists of different parts. Right now, a large part of the Hosseinieh (Islamic Centre) has been constructed and once that is finished, we plan to concentrate on other parts. By the grace of God I hope that we can finish this second building by the end of next year.
Having spent millions of Euros, the municipality of Frankfurt has reconstructed all this area. There used to be a square here, but because of the construction of our building, the municipality has reconstructed it. The residents of the neighborhood had been asking for this to be done for a long time. We also plan to build a fountain on the right side of the square. That will be the symbol of the 14 saints of Shia Islam. If God wishes, that will be our objective.”
Narration: At the end of more than two years of companionship with Önal and his friends we learned that what the dazed man of today needs is a sincerity like that of this young man Önal Kaimakchi, and courage like that of the late Sheikh Hamzeh. The result of this partnership is a beautiful centre, the Hazrat Fatima Zahra (PBUH) mosque, like rain clouds for the thirsty desert of the truth-seeking hearts.