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German univ. closes interfaith room after Muslim students turn it into mosque, segregate women

TU Dortmund University in Germany recently closed its “Room of Silence” — an interfaith room on campus — after Muslim students converted it into a makeshift mosque and even set up partitions to separate female and male students who sought to use the space.

That according to a five-page memo published last week by the university’s rector, which was written in German and transcribed into English by The College Fix using Google translate.

The letter, dated Feb. 3, spells out how the interfaith room at the public university — which enrolls 33,550 students, 3,200 of whom are foreign students from more than 100 countries — had to be closed after Muslim students repeatedly took it over.

The room opened in 2012 to accommodate the wide variety of faiths on campus and because some Muslim students were praying in staircases, causing a fire hazard, according to the memo, which noted the space was intended as a place where students could enjoy “undisturbed individual religious practice.”

“The space of silence is to keep ideologically and religiously neutral,” according to its founding rules cited in the memo. “Religious symbols, characters, placards, brochures … with religion or belief [are not allowed].”

A few months after its initial opening, university officials discovered the room had been taken over by Muslim students, with some students of different faiths reportedly being displaced, the memo stated, calling that the “first massive breach of the terms of use and the purpose of the room.”

“An inspection by the student council indeed found in the room, contrary to the agreement, several prayer rugs and Korans stored and leaflets in Arabic script,” the memo notes, adding display cases also instructed women using the room how to dress and behave, for example, wear a headscarf. Furthermore, “room dividers” had been set up.

After that, the room was closed for some time to allow for a reboot of sorts. But once it reopened, the same thing happened again.

“Multiple female visitors of the room” were intercepted by Muslim male users and told to use a smaller, partitioned-off area, as “the larger space part is only reserved for men,” the memo states, adding prayer carpets and a Koran were also found.

“Against this background, we consider the attempt [to create] a neutral and all-faiths-equally-available space to create silence unfortunately failed,” the memo states.

It concluded by encouraging Muslim students not to complain of Islamophobia and instead embrace the law in Germany that women and men are equal.

According to The Associated Press, the university administration said the room may be used as a baby care room in the future, adding “officials in Germany have emphasized the need for migrants to integrate into German society and abide by the country’s constitution.”

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.