Confrontational Architecture: Europe’s Mosques Move from Back Alleys to Boulevards

There are plans to build several hundred new and often magnificent mosques throughout Europe — particularly in Germany. Architecture has become the field of a fierce ideological battle about the visibility of Europe’s 16 million Muslims. Just a few minutes ago, Mubashra Ilyas was still standing on her dusty construction site. Now the 30-year-old architect is striding through a gallery in the back courtyard of a building in Berlin’s Mitte district in elegant black boots. As the room slowly fills up, Ilyas continues to stand out: She’s the only woman wearing a headscarf. The topic of the evening’s discussion is “Mosques, Migration and Myth,” and Ilyas doesn’t want to miss it. She designed the first mosque to be built in eastern Berlin — the first in all of eastern Germany, in fact — and it’s just about finished. The official opening is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 16. The next few hours at Berlin’s Aedes Architecture Forum will be spent discussing the issues of how “back alley mosques” will soon become a thing of the past, the aesthetics of the new mosques and traditional versus modern styles. The real issue of debate, however, will be the fact that, stone by stone and minaret by minaret, Muslims in Germany want to become more visible — they are no longer content to have their places of worship largely hidden from public view. In architectural terms, they want to be part of the cityscape in a way they have never been before. Ulrike Knöfel reports.

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