Immigration, Integration & Culture: The Islamic Garden as Space for Diverse Communities

Gardens, Mental Order, Social Health

In the past Summer (2017) I exhibited in Berlin, as part of an art festival “48 Hours Neu-Kölln” and “Open Gardens”. Both events mark the art world of Berlin quite distinctivly. 48 Hours markets itself as “Emerging Art/Underground”. Open Gardens is an events created by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Board.

The garden I exhibited in was part of a private house within the Bohemian Village in Rixdorf, Neukölln, near the Underground Station Karl Marx Strasse. This small area within the district of Neukölln is a village with gardens in an otherwise busy, noisy and dirty area of Berlin. It is a distinct part of the the history of immigration to Berlin and Brandenburg. The village was populated in the 18th century with refugees who came from Bohemia (Czechia), on invitation by Friedrich I (Frederik) of Prussia, whose own father Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm helped protestant refugees (Hugenots) who had fled catholic France. The first official Muslim Diplomat on German soil was Mektupçu Azmi Said Efendi who met Friedrich I in 1701 during the coronation of Friedrich. Friedrich I. orded in 1731 (Dekret zu Potsdam) the building of the first Mosque on German ground. The line of Frederik (he was a Hohenzollern) hence established the tradition of religious freedom in Germany.

Neukölln  is increasingly made up of affluent “gentile” folk that work in media and arts and of immigrants. In Germany immigrants are called “People of Migration Background”. One can find fancy ice cream and designer burger shops here, hip bars, and a weekly large food market which the locals call “Türkenmarkt” – Turkish market. Arab and Turksih food stores are situated all along Karl Marx Strasse (yes, Karl Marx!), restaurants and clothes shops with bombastic Turkish bridal wear and bakeries with fancy cakes. There is however also deprivation. People (according to the local newspapers all part of “Gypsy Gang Crime”) sell (stolen?) mobile phones in front of the Neukölln Underground station, drunks are hanging out in front of bars, ragged people sit next to litter on the streets. Such sights were not at all common in Germany 20 years ago, and it fills a pumpkin like myself with unease and a sense of dread for the future.

The area would certainly benefit from a Islamic garden, or at least a garden that engages with it’s principles, as Islamic gardens reflect on the principles of One-Ness and Connected-Ness. It would bring a place of focus, mental health, greenery and communal love into the district. Along the main roads it is very dirty and loud in Neukölln and there is clearly a neglect of public places and streets. Immigrants are blamed for this neglect, which is a populist lie. The neglect is due to failures of the local district, mis-management of funds and partisan political game playing between local politicans. Communal projects like an Islamic garden would give the local population many social impulses and could draw in visitors and bring the community together. It may not cure poverty and crime and people who gave up on being part of society, but it would certainly do more good then creating more of the bad.

There is a statue of King Friedrich I (Frederick) of Prussia in the Bohemian Village (Rixdorf) where I exhibited my floral art work (Kirchgasse 7). Friedrich I lived in the 17th and 18th century and is known as a protector of immigrants. He brought many persecuted people to Berlin and Prussia who benefited Prussia immensly (Germany as a unified Federation did not exist back then). In honor of this man with his advanced political foresight, one should consider the creation of an Islamic Garden that is named after Friedrich I of Prussia. Friedrich the 1st Islamic Heritage Garden perhaps?

The Islam I know, appreciate, study and talk about is the art of contemplation, oneness, focus and mental health. Islamic gardens are places of service to unity and collective sanity.

Posted in Ecology, Sustainability, Design, Culture & History of Islamic Gardens, Islamic Garden Design, Islamic Garden Projects and tagged , , , , , , .

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