Germany's largest mosque will be permitted to broadcast the call to prayer over loudspeakers on Friday afternoons, after an agreement between the city of Cologne and the Muslim community to ease restrictions, the city said Monday.
All 35 mosques in Cologne will now be permitted to broadcast the call to prayer for up to five minutes on Fridays between noon and 3 p.m., under a two-year initiative. That includes the Cologne Central Mosque, which was opened in 2018 after becoming a flashpoint for anti-Muslim sentiment from far-right parties, particularly following an influx of asylum-seekers in 2015-2016.
"Permitting the muezzin call is for me a sign of respect," Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker wrote on Twitter.
The call to prayer would join the bells of Cologne's cathedral – northern Europe's largest Gothic church – as sounds heard by those arriving at the city's main train station, she said.
"It shows that diversity is appreciated and lived in Cologne," she added.
During the controversy surrounding the construction of the large mosque, backers made a point of assuring the public that it would not routinely broadcast the call to prayer, or adhan, which is heard five times a day in Muslim countries. The city said mosques seeking to broadcast the call on Friday afternoons would have to comply with limits on the volume of their loudspeakers and notify neighbors in advance.
The Cologne Central Mosque was evacuated several times in previous years after receiving bomb threats sent via email by far-right groups.
Anti-Muslim attacks have been on the rise in Germany in recent years, fueled by propaganda from far-right parties that exploit fears over the refugee crisis and terrorism. Police recorded 813 hate crimes against Muslims in 2018. At least 54 Muslims were injured in the attacks, carried out mostly by far-right extremists.
Germany, a country of over 81 million people, has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Among the country's nearly 4.7 million Muslims, 3 million are of Turkish descent. Many Turkish Germans are second- and third-generation descendants of Turkish "guest workers" who moved to the country during the 1960s.