German city braces for protests as Erdogan opens mega mosque

German city braces for protests as Erdogan opens mega mosqueTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to open one of Europe’s largest mosques in Cologne on Saturday as he wraps up a controversial visit to Germany, with police deploying in force amid planned protests. The inauguration will be the closing event of Erdogan’s three-day state visit, aimed at repairing frayed ties with Berlin after two years of tensions.


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Thousands of Muslims protest demolition of Chinese mosque in rare moment of defiance

Thousands of Muslims protest demolition of Chinese mosque in rare moment of defianceThousands of Muslims gathered at a mosque in northwestern China on Friday to protest its planned demolition in a rare public pushback to the government’s efforts to rewrite how religions are practiced in the country. A large crowd of Hui people, a Muslim ethnic minority, began congregating at the towering Grand Mosque in the town of Weizhou on Thursday, local Hui residents told The Associated Press by phone. “People are in a lot of pain,” said Ma Sengming, a 72-year-old man who was at the protest from Thursday morning until Friday afternoon. “Many people were crying. We can’t understand why this is happening.” Ma said the group shouted “Protect faith in China!” and “Love the country, love the faith!” The protest comes as faith groups that were largely tolerated in the past have seen their freedoms shrink as the government seeks to “Sinicize” religions by making the faithful prioritise allegiance to the officially atheist ruling Communist Party. Islamic crescents and domes have been stripped from mosques, Christian churches have been shut down and Bibles seized, and Tibetan children have been moved from Buddhist temples to schools. Muslims pray outside a mosque during Eid al-Adha celebrations in Wuzhong Credit: Corbis News/ Jie Zhao The residents of Weizhou were alarmed by news that the government was planning to demolish the mosque despite initially appearing to approve its construction, which was completed just last year. The town’s Communist Party secretary had even made a congratulatory speech at the site when the mosque’s construction began, said Ma Zhiguo, a resident in his late 70s. The authorities planned to take down eight out of the nine domes topping the mosque on the grounds that the structure was built larger than permitted, Ma said. But community members were standing their ground, he added. “How could we allow them to tear down a mosque that is still in good condition?” he said, adding that the mosque conducts prayers attended by about 30,000 Muslims and was built using believers’ personal funds. Photos online show the mosque to be a palatial white structure, with towering columns, vertical windows and a Chinese national flag erected out front. Officials in the county and city propaganda offices said they were not aware of the situation. Other local authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.


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Afghans bury victims of mosque attack as toll rises to 35

Afghans bury victims of mosque attack as toll rises to 35Hundreds of mourners Saturday buried the victims of a twin suicide attack on a Shiite mosque in eastern Afghanistan, as the death toll rose to 35, officials said. Two suicide bombers dressed as women struck a Shiite mosque in Gardez, capital of Paktia province, Friday as it was crowded with worshippers for weekly prayers. “The death toll from Friday’s mosque attack in Gardez has jumped to 35 with 94 wounded,” Paktia governor Shamim Khan Katawazi told AFP.


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