The Turkish influx to Germany began in the 1960s, when they were imported as guest workers to make up for the labor shortfall during the days of the economic miracle. Berlin today has a very large Muslim population and is often known as the second largest city of Turkey. No wonder then that Berlin has a very large number of mosques representing various nationalities and sects. We offered our Eid ul Fitr prayers in Masjid Bilal, a Pakistani mosque in a rundown place located at Drontheimer Strasse 16. The best way to reach this place is with the underground rail and getting off at Oesloerstrasse station. Walking up to the mosque took us less than ten minutes. The Khutba was in Urdu and the congregation was mostly working class Pakistanis. There was a separate hall for females. The mood was festive and everybody was in their best clothes. In the space outside people were selling eatables and distributing sweets. There will be food later, I was informed but we had other plans, so we moved on.
Towards the end of our stay in Berlin, someone recommended that we visit a historic Turkish mosque in Berlin. So one Sunday we took a bus and then the underground train and got off at the Der Platz der Luftbruecke or The Place of the Air Bridge next to the old airport in Templehoff. The air bridge is the name given to the aerial supply to the besieged city of Berlin from 1948 to 1949. The airport is no ore under use. A short walk brought us to the Sehitlik Mosque (Turkish: Türk Berlin Sehitlik Camii). It a restored mosque around a Turkish cemetery at the Columbia dam in the district of Neukölln.
Twenty Muslim soldiers had served under Fredrick William I of Prussia, at the beginning of the eighteenth century. In 1745, Fredrick II established a unit of Muslims in the Prussian army called the Muslim Riders and consisting mainly of Bosniaks, Albanians and Tartars. In 1760 a Bosniak corps was established with about 1,000 men. In 1798 a Muslim cemetery was established in Berlin. The cemetery, which moved in 1866, still exists today.
The new mosque was reopened in 1988 and expanded between 1999 and 2005. The mosque takes its name from the Turkish cemetery, which was created in 1863 as a diplomatic graveyard. Diplomats to the Prussian empire and soldiers can be found in the small graveyard. There is also a small monument in the memory of those who had died in the service of the Ottomans. The mosque is spread over 1500 square meters and the faithful prayer hall in the 1st Floor has an area of 365 square meters. The lower story is reserved for the ladies. The mosque has been constructed in the classic ottoman style and those who have travelled to Turkey will be reminded of its resemblance to Aya Sofia and other mosques in Istanbul. Inside the courtyard are graves of diplomats and soldiers dating back to the last century. Some tombstones indicate these to be the last resting place of Afghan and Iranian diplomats. The mosque is very well maintained. A Turkish center located next to the mosque. The inside is tastefully furnished with blue carpets, chandelier and an impressive pulpit. Advertisements outside announced to the faithful to buy animals for the Eid of sacrifice at the cost of Euro 150 only. The meet would be sent to Afghanistan. Some people sat in the small canteen sipping Turkish kehva. The atmosphere was serene and soothing.