Historical ‘Moor’ pharmacies attract ire of immigrant rights group in Germany

Two historic German pharmacies have been slammed over the racial origin of their names by a municipal group that represents immigrants. The business owners have rejected any suggestion of racist connotations.

The Municipal Foreigners' Association (KAV) has called on the Frankfurt city council to ensure that racist labels and logos "disappear from Frankfurt's cityscape,” specifically singling out two pharmacies, Mohren-Pharmacy and Zeil Pharmacy zum Mohren, for using names with a “racist background.”

It’s common for German pharmacies to have “Moor” in the names, a tradition which dates back to when medicines and drugs were imported from faraway lands. The Moors were predominantly Muslim inhabitants of Spain and North Africa, back when Spain was under Muslim rule.

However, the KAV insists that “even in 2018, it must still be pointed out that words like 'Negro' or 'Moor' have a racist background. For too long they were neither questioned nor given up in Germany.” The group added that, by tolerating words like “Moor,”“racism will continue to be thoughtlessly propagated" in Germany.

Karin Schweizer, managing director of one of the affected pharmacies, was surprised by the criticism, and described it as "strange" that the immigrant representation group had not contacted her. She told the Frankfurter Rundschau that the pharmacy had operated with its “Moor” name for decades without complaints.

The KAV also pointed to the pharmacy’s old logo, which featured the head of a black man with a turban and an earring. But Schweizer says the pharmacy doesn’t use the logo anymore, and it has been removed from “almost everywhere.” She added that removing “Moor” from the pharmacy’s name would be far more complicated and expensive because their operating license is tied to the name.

Alexander Schwartz, owner of the Zeil Pharmacy zum Mohren, dismissed KAV’s criticism, telling local media that his pharmacy “has a lot of international clientele who do not care about the name." He also added that the name "zum Mohren" also appears in the façade of the historic building, which once served as a hotel. The building is apparently on a list of protected historical sites, and city officials say they have no intention of removing or covering up the name.

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