MUNICH — Muslims, Jews and Christians were expected to pray together in Munich earlier this week in a message for peace in the Middle East, especially between Palestinians and Israelis, but the event, too, was cancelled at the last minute under pressure from supporters of Israeli policies.

The event was supposed to take place in the Marienplatz square in central Munich, and was called by the city's Muslim Council, but its mayor, Dieter Ritter, announced its cancellation, saying that "the time has not yet come to organize this prayer in the city," although he was its sponsor at first, which caused great resentment among the ranks of the Muslim Council, which described the decision to cancel as "bitter."

The mayor justified the cancellation decision by withdrawing a representative of the Jewish religion from the event, which makes the possibility of holding it impossible, but other parties confirm that the reason is pressure on the city municipality to cancel, as the withdrawal came due to the dissatisfaction of some representatives of the Jewish religion with the Muslims participating in the event, while Muslim organizations confirmed that the withdrawal of representatives of Jews, as well as Protestants, was for reasons related to the time of prayer, and not a rejection of the invitation.

The Jewish representative did not explain the reason for not attending, but the Bavarian public radio website (BR) indicated that the reason was criticism of the organizers, which prompted representatives of Jews and Protestants to withdraw, while the Protestant bishop, Christian Cobb, stated that without the participation of a representative of the Jews, prayer would not be possible, but promised to intensify dialogue in order to make this prayer possible at a later date.

Compression and tightening

The pressure against joint prayer came from some organizations, the most important of which is the Leftist Coalition Against Anti-Semitism, a gathering of young people from center-left parties and organizations that support Israel.

This alliance launched a campaign of criticism against prayer, and justified this by the presence of "anti-Zionist organizations" within the Muslim Council with relations with the organization "Brotherhood", and its criticism reached the point of "questioning the seriousness of the Council's calls for peace", and this alliance often celebrated the decision to cancel, considering that it achieved its goal, as it is not possible to "achieve peace with the Islamists" as he claimed.

In order to put further pressure on the municipality to cancel the event, this alliance linked the event to Said Ramadan, a historical cadre of the Muslim Brotherhood, as the founder of the Islamic Center in Munich (IZM), one of the institutions represented in the city's Muslim Council, and spoke about the Muslim Brotherhood's relationship with Hamas.

Volker Beck, president of the Israeli-German association, who belongs to the Green Party and is one of Germany's most pro-Israel figures, said that "this prayer is an event that will only serve to protect Hamas and Islamist positions," and Volcker later welcomed the decision to cancel.

However, both Volker Beck and the left-wing alliance criticized the municipality's decision not to state the real reasons behind the cancellation, and to hide behind the cancellation of the "Jewish component" representative's participation, demanding that the municipality clearly state that it has reservations about the participation of the Muslim Council.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that some associations linked to the Munich Muslim Council are under the surveillance of German domestic intelligence, including the German Islamic Gathering (DMG), an association whose membership was dropped by the Supreme Council of Muslims in Germany, on the grounds of "affiliation with the Brotherhood," but the Munich Council itself is not under any official surveillance or accusations of extremism.

Die deutsche #Polizei geht gewaltsam gegen eine friedliche Demonstration in München vor, die sich aus Solidarität mit #Palästina versammelt hat
#Hamas #Israel #Gaza #Deutschland

— Der Rattenfänger (@Rattenfangernet) October 13, 2023

"We are for peace"

Among the criticisms raised by opponents of joint prayer against the participating Islamic institutions was what the imam of the Islamic Center mosque in Munich wrote on his Facebook page, when he celebrated the Hamas attack, but the center published a statement confirming that he had immediately suspended the imam until the accusations were investigated.

"Hatred and violence should not be transmitted to Jews and Muslims in Germany," the center said, noting that it believes in "coexistence," so it invited Jews, Christians and all people of all faiths to visit the mosque.

Despite the ban, a large number of supporters attended, most of them Christians (Süddeutsche - Matthias Black).

Insistence on protest

Although the demonstration was cancelled, dozens of Munich residents attended for collective prayers, and Imam Benjamin Idris told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that organizers had come to tell visitors who did not use social media that the event had been cancelled, but were surprised that many people attended, 90 percent of them Christians, and insisted on group prayer.

The prayer was expected to be without flags, banners or slogans, and came in the context of great pressure on the Islamic councils in Germany, which are now demanding to take official German positions, otherwise they are affiliated with Islamists and encourage "terrorism."

Like all German municipalities, the municipality of Munich declared solidarity with Israel, and the colors of the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary in the center of the city were lit up with the colors of the Israeli flag, while demonstrations in support of Palestine and rejecting the war on Gaza were subjected to a prior ban, under the pretext of "celebrating terrorist attacks."

The police intervened violently to disperse a number of demonstrators, although the advocates of these demonstrations are known for their peaceful work, and there are Israelis from the left in their ranks, but under intense pressure and the growing protest movement following the high number of martyrs in Gaza, the Munich authorities allowed a number of these demonstrations, under multiple conditions.