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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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In the Rhine Valley city of Mannheim, the glittering minaret of Germany's biggest mosque overshadows what was once the region's most vibrant church, testifying to Muslims' new confidence as Christian churches are closing down.

Years ago, 180 sisters of the Catholic order of the Sisters of the Divine Savior were the pulse of the city. Today, eight remain. Every weekend, roughly 150 Roman Catholics attend mass at the Liebfrauen Church, while up to 3,000 Muslims throng the Yavuz-Sultan-Selim mosque. Since the mosque was opened in 1995, Muslim shops and youth centers have become a magnet for the Muslim community.

Mannheim is not unique. Across Europe, the Continent's fastest-growing religion is establishing its public presence after decades in basements and courtyards, changing not only the architectural look of cities, but also their social fabrics.

Hailed by many as a sign of Muslim integration, the phenomenon is also feared as evidence of a parallel Islamic world threatening Europe's Christian culture.

"Muslims have come out ... and have become visible," says Claus Leggewie, a political scientist at Germany's University of Giessen who wrote a study on the evolution of the mosque landscape in Germany. "By building expensive, representative mosques, they're sending a message: we want to take part in the symbolic landscape of Germany. We are here and we'll stay here."

Major mosque projects from Cologne, Germany, to Amsterdam to Seville, Spain, have met with fierce opposition and fears that they will serve as breeding grounds for terrorists. Family members of two of the suspects in the Glasgow, Scotland, car bombings this month said the men had been radicalized by Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic revivalist group with plans for an 18-acre complex near London's 2012 Olympic stadium that would house Europe's largest mosque.

A local debate in Wiesbaden

Such a structure is a far cry from the dark, cramped basement that hosted Halif Kuzpinar's Friday prayers for 33 years after he left his native Turkey to work on Frankfurt's roads. Then, the Muslim group he belongs to bought a vacant supermarket in a residential neighborhood of Wiesbaden, a city in central Germany.

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