Imams and rabbis ride tandems in Berlin rally for mutual respect


Jewish rabbis and Muslim imams took to tandem bicycles on Sunday to ride through central Berlin in a joint show of inter-faith respect and against racism and anti-Semitism.

Dubbed the "meet2respect" ride, it was backed by religious and civic groups, among them the House of One foundation, which combines prayer spaces for Jews, Christians and Muslims.

"We imams and rabbis want to lead by good example," said Muslim theologian Ender Cetin, who rode one of the 25 tandems as part of a 200-strong group of religious leaders and supporters.

The route led from the city's Holocaust memorial past synagogues and mosques and ended at the Bebelplatz public square that was the site of the notorious Nazi book burning in 1933. It also passed Breitscheidplatz with its iconic war-damaged Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, scene of a 2016 jihadist attack when a truck sped through a Christmas market crowd, leaving 12 dead.

One of the rides was made in a rickshaw that was shared by community leaders from the three major religions of the book, also including a Christian pastor. One of the three, Rabbi Andreas Nachama, said "we are cycling because our world does not want to believe that we were all created by a god whom we do not argue about, but rather whom we – each in a different way – adore". Riding with him, Imam Sanci, called the journey "our peacekeeping mission" on which the "the imams, rabbis or pastors share a vehicle ... and share responsibility".

Racism, hate speech and violent attacks have risen in Germany since a mass influx of mostly Muslim refugees starting in 2015 brought more than one million asylum seekers to Europe's biggest economy.

The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, which captured nearly 13 percent in a general election last September, has railed against the migrant influx and also challenged Germany's "remembrance culture" and atonement for the Nazi era.

Amid the heightened tensions, Muslim communities have reported an increase of attacks on mosques and Jewish groups have pointed to rising anti-Semitism, both from the far right and some Muslim newcomers, including a street assault in April by a Syrian refugee on a man wearing a kippa skullcap.    (AFP)

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