Ukrainian leader calls for more weapons; Visiting US officials
FRANKFURT: Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, millions of people have fled the country, many of them from the Middle East.
A mosque in the German city of Frankfurt is doing what it can to give them a happy Ramadan.
The Abu Bakr Mosque is in the Hausen district and is one of Frankfurt’s 50 mosques. Since its construction and inauguration in 2007, it has experienced several crises.
Mohamed Seddadi, a 51-year-old German Moroccan who is the administrator of the mosque, remembers them all. He faced his first crisis after the September 11 attacks.
Seddadi and his colleagues had finally received permission to build the mosque a year earlier. Now they were unsure if they should build it due to rising Islamophobia.
“Then local politicians, including the mayor, visited us and told us that now we have to build it more than ever,” he told Arab News. “They comforted us.”
Seddadi came to Frankfurt as a student in 1990. In 1992 he joined a group of Muslim students who met regularly for discussion and prayer. He had tried several other Muslim groups before, but found none appealing.
“This one had no national boundaries, so I just felt at home,” he said. “Faith should have no national boundaries.”
It was not only faith but also loyalty to Germany that Seddadi saw as a necessity. “I love this country and its freedom. It’s my house.
It took a long time before the foundations of a mosque building were laid. In 1996 the group purchased an estate in Hausen where worshipers prayed in the building of a former auto repair shop.
“We had two major goals at the time: collecting donations to build a mosque and getting to know the neighborhood,” Seddadi said.
Neighbors of all faiths were regularly invited to join meals during Islamic festivities. “It’s important for us to be good neighbours.”
The building – consisting of two floors that can accommodate more than 1,000 people to pray – was completed and inaugurated in 2007.
Two imams, from Egypt and Morocco, lead prayers and hold sermons. Seddadi hopes for a third imam, German. “I would like to have a German imam born, raised and educated here,” he said.
In the basement you will find a restaurant serving dishes from the Middle East and North Africa. “It’s open to everyone.”
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, the mosque faced another crisis just before Ramadan as its prayer halls could not operate at full capacity.
With both the concerns of community members and the growing need for spiritual guidance, Seddadi and the two imams received around 30 phone calls a day.
The restaurant remained closed, but Seddadi and his colleagues began a new approach: “We delivered the menus or offered iftar meals to take away.
The most recent crisis was the war in Ukraine. For Seddadi and his colleagues, this came as a surprise.
“We never thought it could get this bad,” he said. “With a war so close, we are needed.”
A special meeting of members of nine mosques in Frankfurt was held. Its participants made several decisions to help those in need.
Since the start of the war, more than 5 million refugees have left Ukraine, including more than 360,000 in Germany.
Many of them come from the Middle East and North Africa, as Ukraine has tens of thousands of people in the region.
Seddadi strives to provide them with everything possible so they can have a happier Ramadan – like every year, the mosque’s kitchen staff prepare and cook meals for those in need.
Meals are either delivered directly to the refugee camps in town or can be picked up by the refugees in front of the mosque. To do this, Seddadi and his colleagues coordinate closely with the camp management.
To achieve these goals, the kitchen staff must prepare 150 meals a day, a number that pushes them to their limits.
“It’s difficult,” Seddadi said. “But we cannot deny the request of anyone in need.” Neighborhood volunteers, including non-Muslims, also help.
The opening of the mosque that Seddadi enjoys so much is evident during Ramadan, as staff also deliver menus to non-Muslims in Ukraine. “The concept of iftar and charity is that anyone in need will have something to eat,” Seddadi said.
As the war in Ukraine drags on, he has only one wish: “That it ends as soon as possible. The images I see and the stories I hear are simply unbearable.