In Europe, skylines reflect the rise of Islam
After decades of worshiping in basements and courtyards, Muslims are building hundreds of new mosques across the continent.
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Since coming to Germany, Muslim migrant workers like Mr. Kuzpinar have held prayer meetings in dark nooks that reflected the precarious situation of a people often torn between their adopted and their home countries.Skip to next paragraph
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But the "guest workers" who helped drive the economic boom of postwar Germany stayed. They set up organizations to run prayer, youth, and senior activities. They moved up the economic ladder, increasing their financial contributions to the groups, and receiving funds from pan-European Muslim organizations supporting the Muslim diaspora.
And now, the third generation is building domed mosques with minarets. Only a handful existed 10 years ago, but today 159 mosques dot Germany today, with 184 under construction, according to the Central Institute for Islamic Archives in Söst.
Aachen, for instance – a German city of 257,000 on the Belgian border with a 9 percent Muslim population – just gave the green light to a domed mosque with a minaret. That's a sign, says Mayor Jürgen Linden, "that Muslims have become a part and parcel of society."
But many see the arrival of mosques as a threat, with fears and conflicts worsening since 9/11, argues Mr. Leggewie, the mosque specialist. Grass-roots initiatives have sprouted that try to thwart mosque projects.
"I have the responsibility to protect our society, our democratic principles, ... our values," says Regina Ebenich, who leads an antimosque effort in Wiesbaden. Why, for instance, she asks, can't Muslim girls take part in swimming lessons or attend class field trips?
"A mosque is never a religious place only," says Willi Schwend, head of the antimosque National Association of Citizens' Initiatives. "A mosque is a caldron of political agitation. The goal of Islam is to spread the principles of Islam into society, to change society, to bring about sharia [Islamic law]."
Mr. Schwend's call finds an echo in eastern Berlin, where plans for a mosque with a 40-foot-high minaret have enraged a 6,500-inhabitant neighborhood. Although Berlin has numerous mosques, this would be the first in the former communist part of the country. There, argues Leggewie, the absence of a tradition of immigration, combined with strong right-wing feelings, explain why fears of Islam run deep.
A conflict of cultures
But even in Cologne, in the western part of the country, plans for what would become Germany's biggest mosque – with two 170-foot minarets slated to accommodate 2,000 people – has ignited a conflict of cultures.
With more than 100,000 Muslims living in Cologne, Germany's fourth-largest city, many religious and political leaders have rallied around the mosque plan. But Ralph Giordano, a prominent writer and Holocaust survivor, rekindled fears of a radical Islam threatening German society. "The integration of Muslims has failed," Giordano told the media.
Endter says Germany's mainstream population can no longer afford to ignore that it lives in a country of immigrants.
"You can't say, on the one hand, "We invite you to work, come over,' and on the other hand say, "Yes, you can pray, but only in courtyards, basements, in the shadow of society,'" he says. "We are in a phase of upheaval. The Muslim communities want to integrate. They don't want to live in the shadow anymore."
Amsterdam: In May, the city council threatened to block construction of what would be the Netherlands' biggest mosque, which was on the verge of being built after a decade of struggle.
Cologne, Germany: The Turkish Islamic Union has plans for a mosque that would hold 2,000 worshipers. Roughly half of residents are opposed, and some worry it will overshadow the nearby Cologne Cathedral, a World Heritage Site and renowned religious landmark.
London: Plans for an 18-acre mosque complex near the 2012 Olympic stadium site call for a school, community center, and a mosque that – with space for 40,000 worshipers – would be the largest in Europe. The Islamic revivalist group behind it, Tablighi Jamaat, has been linked by some to those accused of terrorist activities. Family members of suspects in the recent Glasgow car-bombing attempt say the suspects were radicalized by the group. Tablighi Jamaat insists it is a peaceful organization.
Seville, Spain: Last month the city council announced that it would block plans to build a 65,000-square-foot mosque in the largely Moroccan neighborhood of Los Bermejales. This project, too, would be larger than any mosque in Europe today.