Muslim watershed Germany's biggest mosque opens
* Kate Connolly in Berlin
* The Guardian,
* Saturday October 25 2008
It has a 34-metre minaret and a dome-shaped ceiling handpainted with
floral patterns and verses from the Qur'an. Its crowning glory is a
golden chandelier engraved with 99 epithets for Allah, and there is
seating for 2,000 worshippers.
Germany's biggest mosque opens tomorrow in the Ruhr valley city of
Duisburg in what leaders of Germany's 3 million Muslims have described
as a watershed moment, bringing mosques out of the backyards and
alleys and into the middle of urban life.
The multimillion-euro Merkez mosque in the working-class district of
Marxloh, which was financed by private and public money, will
transform the lives of the city's Muslims. Their previous meeting
place was the rundown canteen of a former mining company.
For some, its consecration is a sign that the country has finally
integrated its Muslims, too long considered guest workers who would
one day go home, while for others it shows that Islam is taking over
the religious landscape.
"How many mosques can a country cope with?" the conservative newspaper
Die Welt asked in a recent commentary.
For their part, Germany's Muslims, of whom 70% are ethnic Turks, say
they want their rightful place in a society they have been a part of
for 50 years or more.
"The fact that we've been allowed to build a mosque is a sign for us
that the community is telling us 'you're accepted'," said Mustafa
Kücük, a spokesman for the Merkez mosque.
However, there have been protests in Berlin, a citizens' initiative
was formed in Munich to prevent a mosque being built, and in Cologne
rightwing populists used opposition to the building of a mosque to
Germany has 206 mosques, and more than 120 are under construction or
in the planning stage.