Breaking News Stories
These are news stories breaking after the publishing of this Word
– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
tension and backlash against Muslims in Europe
Analysis: Europeans wary of increase
By Stefan Nicola
BERLIN-- Plans to double number of mosques in Germany.
Europeans are alarmed by a rise in mosques that may become catalysts in
another round of a cultural conflict, further hampering the integration
of Muslims in Europe.
The Sehitlik Mosque in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, near the Tempelhof
Airport, is a beautiful and impressive building, complete with a
traditional dome construction and two lavishly adorned minarets that
stretch some 100 feet into the air. The mosque is open to anyone who
wants to see it, and guided tours in multiple languages explain its
architectural and religious peculiarities.
The building is one of only 159 in Germany that can be recognized by
passersby as a mosque; for their sermons, the country’s more than 3
million Muslims still venture to more than 1,000 so-called backyard
mosques, community halls and buildings in industrial districts. No
wonder communities are updating existing buildings or constructing
entirely new mosques: "It’s very normal and good that a big religion
presents itself all over the world," Boris Groys, a philosophy professor
and cultural expert at Karlsruhe’s State University of Design whose
family hails from Russia, said Tuesday at a discussion forum on mosques
Yet some have warned of a mighty wave of mosques that is about to sweep
Europe: In Germany, the Muslim community is planning to more than double
the number of mosques, with 184 projects in the planning. Groups in
Saudi Arabia and Turkey finance many of these projects, large and
prestigious buildings that critics say are intended as power symbols,
rather than prayer houses. Often, its imams are sent directly from
Turkey and don’t speak any German, and Islam, sidelining traditional
Christian churches, has long turned into the fastest-growing religion in
"No one has anything against a mosque," Ralph Ghadban, a Lebanese-born
Islam expert at Berlin’s Protestant University of Applied Sciences, told
United Press International Wednesday in a telephone interview. "But the
large projects are Islamic centers that also do social work and child
education on the basis of the Sharia (Islamic law). These centers don’t
help to integrate people, they foster parallel societies."
In Cologne, a traditional Catholic stronghold in western Germany, a
Muslim group linked to Turkey’s Ministry of Religion is turning its
existing community building in the center of town into a lavish,
citadel-adorned full-scale mosque. While the local Christian churches
and the city support the construction, citizen groups have voiced their
opposition to the project.
"One has the feeling that it is easier today to build a nuclear power
plant than a mosque," Ali Kizilkaya, the head of the German Islam
Council, said in a newspaper interview with Berlin-based daily taz.
Yet Germany isn’t alone: In England, Switzerland, Austria and the
Netherlands, people have in the past rallied against controversial
mosque projects in the center of their cities. Often, people are driven
by a mixture of xenophobia on the one hand, and anxiety over what they
see as an Islamist intrusion on the other hand.
The problem is that far-right groups have recognized the capital they
can squeeze from the Islamophobia being waged in Europe: In Switzerland,
a country with some 300,000 Muslims, the far-right SVP party has
campaigned with posters playing on xenophobic images that will hand them
an overwhelming victory in next Sunday’s elections. One SVP lawmaker,
Ulrich Schluer, even rallied support to bring about a referendum to
write a new clause into the Swiss Constitution that would forbid the
building of minarets in the country. He already has more than 40,000
signatures, and observers expect that Schluer will get the necessary
100,000 next year to launch a referendum.