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Building mosques without conflict

Over 100 Islamic places of worship and mosques are currently planned, approved or already built in Germany – more than ever before. Increasing numbers of Muslim communities are leaving the premises they have used on temporary basis. In doing so, they are registering that they wish to be a permanent part of German society. But this often raises concerns. Some people are concerned about an increase in traffic; others fear that the mosque will make too great a mark on the cityscape.  Once the place of worship is built, then life usually carries on as normal. Yet awareness does need to be raised. How does the German constitution stand in relation to mosques? How can providing information counteract prejudice? The German Islam Conference provides answers to these and other questions.

Mosques in Germany: everything enshrined in law

There are approximately 2,600 Muslim places of prayer in Germany, of which around 150 are traditional mosques, that is, mosques which have the characteristic dome and usually also a minaret.

Alevis do not have mosques but cemevis, and it is not known how many of these there are. According to current data and estimates, there is one house of prayer for every 1,200 Muslims in the Federal Republic.

Freedom of worship is a constitutional right in Germany. It also includes the right of Muslim communities to build prayer rooms and mosques. Having premises for community work also falls within this regulation.

According to planning laws, mosques are treated in the same way as churches or synagogues. And there are no special aspects of planning law or emissions regulations which rule out their construction or use. In short: laws alone cannot solve conflicts in connection with the building and use of mosques in Germany.

Providing information: playing with an open hand

Nevertheless, the worries and fears of citizens who live in the vicinity of a proposed mosque must be taken seriously. This is where local politics and local government can prevent problems arising. Having an urban development policy that deals openly and actively with the need for Islamic places of worship, the residents’ requirements and possible sites, together with complementary public relations work may mean that conflicts do not arise in the first place

Muslims responsible for building projects are called upon on for their part to increase the acceptance of their plans by ensuring information is provided to the local population in good time. This does not mean merely details about the buildings themselves, but also details of the planned activities and financing.

Local authorities and Muslim communities must also jointly ensure that integration problems are not created or increased on account of having mosques in the vicinity of businesses or residential areas.

Mediators: good advice need not be expensive

If, in spite of extensive information work, concerns cannot be allayed, it may be necessary to engage suitable counsellors or mediators; people who enjoy the trust and esteem of both parties. Both the local authorities and Muslim communities should take the initiative if necessary.

“The aim is to conduct discussions about building mosques objectively, thereby promoting and not putting at issue the integration of Islam in Germany,” was the consensus reached by conference participants.

DIK-editorial team, 25.11.2008

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