BERLIN: A Muslim community is opening the first mosque in Germany’s formerly communist east on Thursday despite a steady stream of protests from local residents and far-right demonstrators.Â
The Khadija Mosque, built by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, is a two-storey white structure capped with a 13-metre (42-foot) silver dome in Berlin’s Pankow district.Â
Most of Germany’s more than 3 million Muslims come from Turkey and live in the west. Berlin has some 70 mosques, mostly tucked away in old warehouses or other nondescript buildings in western parts of the city.Â
“This one is special,” said Fazlur Rehman Anwar, a member of the Ahmadiyya community in Hamburg, who was in Berlin for the opening. ``It is in the capital. It is the first one in (the former) East Germany.”Â
The city’s top security official welcomed the new Muslim house of worship and expressed hope it would help in the integration of the city’s roughly 220,000 Muslims. No mosque has ever helped with the integration of Muslims/ed
“I find that an open mosque is much better in view of immigration over that which we often see _ a mosque that is in the back courtyard of a converted warehouse,” Ehrhart Koerting told the Berliner Morgenpost daily.Â
Local residents and members of Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party, or NPD, have staged dozens of protests since the plans for the mosque were announced in 2006. Plans to construct mosques with minarets in other cities have also met with protest.Â
The “We Are Pankow” grass-roots group also planned to protest during Thursday’s opening of the 400-square-meter (4,300-square-foot) building.Â
While the group says it is opposed to the Ahmadis’ strict division between men and women _ who are veiled and not permitted to participate in coed sports _ local residents also cite what they say is a lack of religious freedom in Muslim countries.Â
“I don’t find it (the mosque) very good, because we are not allowed to build churches in Turkey,” said Gudrun Brese, a retiree who lives near the mosque. “I have a problem with that.”Â
Ahmadis follow the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, but also consider their community’s founder _ Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, born in Qadian, India in 1835 _ to be the messiah and a “humble servant of Islam” who sought to reform Islamic practice.
Protest mars opening of first mosque in east Germany
BERLIN (Reuters) – About 200 people chanting anti-Muslim slogans demonstrated on Thursday at the opening of the first mosque in the formerly communist eastern part of Germany.
Attacks on the site and protests by residents and the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) have dogged the mosque’s construction.
The demonstrators, many of them older people, held banners reading “Stop the Islamisation of Europe” and “Stop the Abuse of Religious Freedom.”
A few black-clad young men with shaved heads, a trademark right-wing style, joined the protest but the NPD called off a march.
The protest highlighted difficulties in integrating Germany’s 3.2 million Muslims into mainstream society, especially in the former communist east where few have settled.
Supporters say the mosque will foster better ties.
“The mosque will be a hub of social activity, not just for praying,” said Ijaz Ahmad, spokeswoman for the Ahmadiyya mosque.
“It will play a role in boosting integration and promoting dialogue with politicians and other religious groups.”Â Â Continued…
Monster Mosque opens in Chechnya
Russia’s Chechnya inaugurates vast new mosque
GROZNY, Russia (Reuters) – Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov opened one of Europe’s biggest mosques in the rebuilt capital of the southern Russian region Friday, saying it was proof Russian rule and Islam can go together. The mosque, named “The Heart of Chechnya” and constructed by Turkish builders, can host up to 10,000 worshippers. Its minarets rise as high as 62 m (200 ft) and the complex extends over 14 hectares (35 acres), including a vast garden.
“With the start of the Chechen war, the enemies of Islam and foes of Russia alleged that Russia wages war against Islam and the Chechen people,” Kadyrov told the opening ceremony.
Russia has fought two wars in Chechnya against Muslim rebels but has succeeded in largely pacifying the region and has spent large sums repairing war damage.
“The adversaries of Russia’s revival used the Chechen republic and Islam as an instrument to destroy Russia as a sovereign state,” Kadyrov added. “But the Chechens … have defended the integrity of Russia and the purity of Islam.”
In 1996, Chechnya won effective independence from Russia after a 20 month-war in which tens of thousands were killed.
Three years later Russia’s then-prime minister Vladimir Putin moved troops into Chechnya to retake the region.
During Putin’s subsequent presidency from 2000-2008, the rebellion was extinguished.
Ramzan Kadyrov’s father Akhmad was a former rebel mufti who sided with Moscow in the second war. He was instrumental in imposing Russian rule in Chechnya but was assassinated by rebels in 2004. The Grozny mosque was built in his memory.
Ramzan Kadyrov, who has followed his father’s loyalty to Moscow, also encourages the revival of Islam in the predominantly Muslim region, while crushing any attempts to use Islam as a banner for guerrilla actions.
The Grozny mosque, which Russian and Chechen officials have said is one of the biggest in Europe, will also host an Islamic center.
Grozny, almost completely destroyed during the Chechen wars, is now being rebuilt.
Putin, who has again become prime minister after handing over the presidency in May to his chosen successor Dmitry Medvedev, visited the mosque Thursday.
(Writing by Oleg Shchedrov; editing by Philippa Fletcher)