The politics of mosque-building : Constructing conflict

In many Western cities, plans to erect mosques often stir more passion than any other local issue-and politicians are leaping into the fray. NOT since Cologne was rebuilt half a century ago, out of the rubble of war, has a change in the urban landscape generated so much heat. A city whose main landmark is a medieval cathedral may soon share its skyline with another place of worship: a large mosque with minarets more than 50 metres (165 feet) high. While the city’s (mainly Turkish) Muslim population of over 120,000 is looking forward to the new building-a sign, perhaps, that it has finally put down roots in a country that long treated migrant workers as guests-Cologne as a whole is deeply divided. A poll found that 36% of residents were happy with the mosque plan, 29% wanted to see it scaled down and 31% were entirely against it. The no and yes camps are not just passionate, they are diverse. Those who approve the plan include many Roman Catholic clergy. But a far-right party, Pro Cologne, which holds five of the 90 seats in the city council, has done well by drumming up opposition to the mosque.