Turks to celebrate Karnival - their own way
By forming their own association, Cologne Turks hope to celebrate Karnival in their own way: with more respectful behavior and without alcohol.
Cologne – Turks in Cologne, Germany have formed a Karnival association in the hopes of better brokering the relationship between their beliefs and the raucous celebrations that usually occur during the Rhien city's annual Carnival.
"We absolutely want to be part of the fun, but we want to adapt it a bit to our own way of life," said Katharina Starke, spokeswoman for the Turkish Karnival Association of Germany. The association was launched on Thursday.
Karnival, an annual festival of parties and parades, has its roots in Christianity. Also celebrated in southern Europe, it was originally a splurge of eating and drinking in February or March before the annual six-week Christian fasting season of Lent. It is not an official Catholic feast and the clergy have no role in it.
Karnival revelers dress up in outlandish costumes, sing themselves hoarse and often stop work for days on end. Turkish residents of the city join in enthusiastically every year.
However, some observant Muslims find the sexual license and heavy alcohol consumption during carnival unsettling, Starke said.
"It's not as if we want to segregate the sexes, but we think you can celebrate a little more decently," she said, adding that Cologne Muslims did not perceive Karnival as inherently Christian. "In a city like Cologne it's part of our common culture."
Karnival associations usually hold parties with admission by ticket only and organize groups of dancers or musicians.
The new group said it is planning comedy and song evenings where no alcohol will be served to the audience, and it hopes in later years to contribute marchers or even a float to the Rosenmontag Parade, the annual high point of Karnival in Cologne.
Karnival organizers have repeatedly appealed to revelers over the years to ease off alcohol consumption, but largely in vain.
Many couples are reported to also turn a blind eye to sexual escapades by partners in the final week of Karnival.
Starke said the Turkish group was being founded with 35 members but is expected to grow quickly.
Pro Cologne, a far-right group, mocked the Turkish association Wednesday, charging that it did not belong and would want to prohibit alcohol at carnival and force women revelers to wear full-body burqa robes, like traditionalist women in Afghanistan.
Starke said her supporters were shocked but unfazed at the reaction.
This is not the first time Pro Cologne has targeted Cologne's Muslims. Last year, riots broke out when it attempted to demonstrate against mosques.
The organizing committee for the Rosenmontag parade, which oversees carnival schedules, welcomed the start of the new association, saying it was a step toward better integrating the Turkish minority in civic life.
Currently, Turks comprise approximately 6 percent of Cologne's population.