The mosques of Copenhagen

Increasing Islamic places of worship - between integration and hostility

The largest mosque in Denmark will be inaugurated in a few weeks in Nørrebro, a central neighbourhood in Copenhagen. It will have no equals on the Scandinavian territory. Erected under the auspices of Denmark’s Islamic Council, the mosque is under close scrutiny as the 21 million euros needed for its construction were provided by the former Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The spokesperson of the Islamic Council, Mohamed al Mainouni, reiterated that “its completion wouldn’t have been possible without this financial support”, but that once open, the mosque “will cover expenses with its own means”, thanks to revenues from the rent of its halls and structures. Other projects on the horizon. Despite reassurance on the fact that donations will not impact the political or religious affiliation of the mosque, Brian A. Jacobsen, Sociologist of Religions at Cophenagen University, told SIR that a large number of local and national politicians expressed “deep scepticism”, notably the members of the nationalist Danish People’s Party. Conversely, the “construction of the mosque passed unnoticed by the Danish press”, and met no resistance. However, last week the Immigration and Integration Committee asked Development and Social Integration Minister to respond to a public question in Parliament on the building of large mosques. In fact, other mosques are being planned: a Shiite mosque with a blue cupola and two minarets not distant from the one under construction financed by Iran, in addition to others in Roskilde, Haderslev and Aarhus. In favour and against. “In the public debate – Jakobsen said – the government said it would not limit the legitimate freedom of religious communities of building mosques or practicing their religion. While the opposition, notably the Danish People’s Party, calls upon the government to adopt measures providing legal tools to block the building of mosques by religious organization in case of alleged funding from non-Danish organizations related to conservative or extremist Islamic bodies or in case of activity that “go against Danish values”, notably democracy. The minister for Integration announced: “the government is yet to draw up a legal framework that is more detailed compared to the existing one in terms of the approval of religious communities” and as regards “the transparency of their budgets”. Today there are 134 officially recognized religious communities in Denmark, 9 of which approved in accordance with Royal Decree, in addition to the Lutheran State Church. “It’s hard to predict whether this initiative will improve relations with minority religious groups that welcomed this proposal along with the opposition”. It’s important to prevent possible consequences, for example in terms of economic support outside the EU, which in fact would limit the possibility of funding for mosques. A growing community. The survey carried out by Jakobsen in 2013 shows that the Muslim community in Denmark has grown from 0.6% of the overall population (29 400 people) in 1980 to approximately 4.3% (242 300). However, according to Jakobsen, and figures confirm it, Danish people are less hostile against mosques and minarets although a consistent part of the population nurtures resentment against such religious buildings. “The more people live in areas distant from cities with mosques the more the hostility”. This situation is coupled by “the populist stand of the extreme right that makes an emotional use of nationalistic slogans” that resonate across the population. Cooperation among religions. In 2005 the Danish daily “Jyllands Posten” published the satirical strips on Mohammed in its online edition, promptly blocked by Islamic hackers, but it was re-published in the paper edition one year later. Heavy reactions ensued in Denmark and abroad for the violation of the sacred prohibition to depict the Prophet Mohammed. Today the climate has changed in the Nordic country: “Muslims are much more organized and two ‘umbrella organizations’ have been set up, boosting cooperation between Muslims and the Danish Church, as well as with other Christian churches”, said Lene Kühle (department Religion Studies, University of Aahrus): “Muslim organizations are often included in political consultations. Every year a meeting takes place between Christian and Muslim religious leaders”. Also “everyday life is marked by many positive examples of coexistence and examples of how the practice of Islam is welcomed without problems. Public debate is still ongoing on practices such as circumcision or halal slaughtering practices”. For Kühle “the minarets are a sign of the persistent presence of Muslims in Denmark. Muslims are a part of Europe’s future. Now we are at the stage of the negotiation process on how Islam should be incorporated within the fabric of future European societies”.

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