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Crosses Go Up in Public Offices. It’s Culture, Bavaria Says, Not Religion.

“This is not so much about where you hang a cross but where you make a cross on Election Day,” chuckled Ugur Bagislayici, a Turkish-Bavarian entertainer from the neighboring village who speaks with a thick lower Bavarian accent and is known by his pseudonym Django Asül.

Mr. Bagislayici eats Bavarian pork sausage and drinks beer from a giant mug like fellow villagers. When he had to choose between a Turkish passport and a German one, he went with the latter.

Mr. Bagislayici said that he, too, finds the cross comforting. “Maybe all those who speak in the name of offended Muslims should check what those Muslims actually think,” he said.

Crosses Go Up in Public Offices. It’s Culture, Bavaria Says, Not Religion.
Crosses Go Up in Public Offices. It’s Culture, Bavaria Says, Not Religion.

There are not many Muslims in Deggendorf, a town with just over 36,000 inhabitants. The Turkish community is small and long established: The first guest workers arrived in the 1960s and ’70s, like Mr. Bagislayici’s father. Some of the 350 refugees in the local home for asylum seekers are Muslims from Sierra Leone.

But even before the arrival in 2015 of hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim refugees in Germany across the nearby border with Austria, people developed fears of a “Muslim takeover,” said the Rev. Martin Neidl, a Catholic priest.

“The fear is not rational,” he said. “But the fear is powerful.”

When the local mosque was destroyed by floods in 2014 and the town council paid the Turkish community to build a new one, some German residents were appalled. When the new mosque ended up bigger than the old one, in part because of private donations, the opposition grew noisier.

“The minaret was too high,” said Beate Lausch-Bernreiter, an educational therapist who does tours of Deggendorf dressed up in medieval garb. “You could see it from the autobahn. It was competing with our church spires.”

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