The author’s children also went to school in the Bad Godesberg district of Bonn. While the tranquil West German city of Bonn was the seat of government between 1949 and 1998, Bad Godesberg was bustling with residences of ambassadors and senior officials. But those times are over. While global corporations moved into the city itself after the departure of parliament and government, the noble quarter in the south of the city lost much of its former charm. Bad Godesberg has repeatedly been the subject of discussion in recent years due to radical Muslim tendencies and has often been referred to as a “Salafist stronghold”, including by the security authorities.
A lot has changed there since the capital city decision of 1991 and the move of the government to Berlin. Many migrants now live there, and locals also call Bonner Allee in the center “Baghdad-Allee” because of the many Arabic shops and cafés. In addition, people come every year, mainly from Arab countries, to be treated there in special clinics. All of this now characterizes the image of Bad Godesberg.
Law enforcement officials and concerned parents are now reporting that devout Muslim students in a grammar school harassed female classmates with dress codes and prayed during class despite the ban.
In its short profile, the school emphasizes the concept of diversity, openness, tolerance and freedom of belief. Above all is a Latin quote from the namesake, who was an important philosopher in the late Middle Ages: “Eadem spectamus astra!” Translated: “We see the same stars.” The school, which has been in existence for 70 years, also attaches great importance to internationality and emphasizes the origin of its students and parents from different countries of origin. Of the current 552 students, 324 are Muslims. A few of them are said to be devout Muslims and care little about the school’s mission statement. They are currently causing a stir because they bully other classmates with dress codes and pray illegally at school.
The higher school authority confirms the problems and explains that “some students have reported that boys have attacked them, that the dress code in the schoolyard or in physical education classes is not observed,” explains a spokesman for the Cologne district government. These are “individuals”; they cannot be assigned to any groups and no obviously special religious currents.
The Bonn regional newspaper “General-Anzeiger” had previously reported on this and referred to sources that spoke of “religious bullying”. The newspaper also quotes the head of the Office for Integration and Diversity of the city of Bonn: “A minority of Muslim students have noticed that you can put pressure on teachers with offensive, challenging statements of religion.” From their point of view, these statements are provocations.
The assertiveness of the students is therefore related to the fact that most teachers have little knowledge of Islam. “They quickly get on the defensive. This situation strengthens the provocative young people and gives them a certain amount of power over other students,” says the head of department. The city and school management refer to the district government of Cologne. There it is emphasized that the school has already taken measures. “Any publicly recognizable attempt at prayer in the school is prohibited to maintain peace in the school,” said the district government. In addition, the teachers have been supported by various bodies for at least a year. This purpose is also served by the program “Guide – Together against Islamism” of the Ministry of the Interior in North Rhine-Westphalia and the so-called system advice “Prevention of extremism and promotion of democracy” in the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. These state-established specialists are intended to support teachers and school psychological services when it comes to group-related enmity, anti-Semitism, Islamism and Salafism, right-wing and left-wing extremism.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s Ministry of Education emphasizes that “public schools in the state are religiously and ideologically neutral. Therefore, pressure exerted in this regard – from whatever quarters – will not be tolerated.”
Nevertheless, other schools also need advice when it comes to radical trends. For example, the signpost office in Bonn helps various schools and, according to the Ministry of the Interior, has given 1,300 specific consultations to those directly affected, mostly young people, in recent years. “80 to 90 percent of them took a positive course, so it was possible to prevent a further slide into extremism,” it says.
The union for education and science confirms that there are also problems at other schools in Bonn. “The grammar school in Bonn seems to be just the tip of the iceberg”. It speaks of “hardcore cases” and mentions students for whom the Constitution is not binding, but the Quran. Parents of students who wore the “One Love” armband as a sign of tolerance during the World Cup in Qatar were labeled homosexual by students.
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