Swiss Parliament Rejects Minaret Ban

The Swiss Senate overwhelmingly rejected on Friday, June 5, a proposal by right-wing parties for banning minarets in the central European country. “It is appalling to have a discussion in Switzerland about a minaret ban for ideological motives,” Radical Party Senator Dick Marty said, Swissinfo reported. By a 36-3 vote, the Senate rejected an initiative put forward by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) for referendum to ban minarets in Switzerland. “Certain values are simply not negotiable,” said Senator Marty. The move came two days after the House of Representatives rejected the right-wing proposal. The Swiss government has already come out against the far-right plan, branding it unconstitutional and discriminatory. The SVP and a small ultra-conservative Christian party launched a campaign last year to have the building of minarets banned in Switzerland. The far-right parties claim that a minaret is not necessary for worship but is rather a symbol of Islamic law which is incompatible with Switzerland’s legal system. The move has shocked Switzerland’s 350,000 Muslims, many of whom have been campaigning for decades for more recognition for their faith. Islam is the second religion in the country after Christianity; however Muslims are often the object of animosity. Mosques in Switzerland tend to be confined to disused warehouses and factories.

Uneasy Peace for Berlin’s New Ahmadi Mosque

Berlin’s first Ahmadi mosque opened its doors in the former eastern side of the German capital last month. The building and the religious group are putting religious tolerance to the test. A 13-meter-high (43-foot) minaret competes for attention alongside pillars advertising the fast food outlets at a busy intersection in Pankow, a north-eastern suburb of Berlin. Inside the mosque, the call to Friday prayer echoes as men fall to their knees. Upstairs, women turn to the loudspeakers relaying the imam’s chant. It is not audible from the streets, where the mosque draws suspicious disapproval. The Khadija Mosque, which opened on Oct. 16, has met with strong opposition ever since its inception in 2006. The first purpose-built mosque to open in former East Germany, it provides a new center for Berlin’s Ahmadi community. Ahmadiyya Islam is a reform movement founded in India in the 19th century. The Ahmadi are not recognized by mainstream Muslims, and many have left Pakistan where they face religious persecution.

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Muslim watershed Germany’s biggest mosque opens

It has a 34-metre minaret and a dome-shaped ceiling handpainted with floral patterns and verses from the Qur’an. Its crowning glory is a golden chandelier engraved with 99 epithets for Allah, and there is seating for 2,000 worshippers. Germany’s biggest mosque opens tomorrow in the Ruhr valley city of Duisburg in what leaders of Germany’s 3 million Muslims have described as a watershed moment, bringing mosques out of the backyards and alleys and into the middle of urban life. The multimillion-euro Merkez mosque in the working-class district of Marxloh, which was financed by private and public money, will transform the lives of the city’s Muslims. Their previous meeting place was the rundown canteen of a former mining company. For some, its consecration is a sign that the country has finally integrated its Muslims, too long considered guest workers who would one day go home, while for others it shows that Islam is taking over the religious landscape. Kate Connolly reports.

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Culture fest marks mosque’s 20th anniversary

The mosque in Milan is commemorating its 20th anniversary during the latter half of the month of October. The Al-Rahman mosque, the first mosque in Italy built with a dome and minaret, is holding a series events from October 16th to 30th, in joint cooperation with the Milan branch of the Young Muslims of Italy. Art exhibitions, special dinners, and several prominent Muslim figures will be giving talks to mark the anniversary, including Swiss intellectual Tariq Ramadan.

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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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Mosque taking shape nicely

Teesside’s first ever purpose-built mosque is taking shape. The first two stages of development for the new three-storey building in Stockton are now complete. The final stage will see the bricks and mortar built around the steel structure. And members of the mosque committee are predicting the building could be opened by late 2009 or early 2010. Ward councillor Mohammed Javed, 47, told the Gazette: “We have completed the second stage and it’s now a case of putting up the bricks.” Designed by award-winning architect Al-Samarraie, the £2.2m mosque will boast a stunning 90ft minaret and will be able to accommodate more than 3,000 people. In addition to the prayer house, the mosque will also feature computer and conference rooms and a library. “We will have a proper library where students looking to read about Islam can come and we’ll also have funeral facilities and special rooms for ladies’ functions and children’s classes,” said Cllr Javed.

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A Pro-Church Law Helps Mosque in France

While France is a model of centralized law, its Alsace- Moselle region differs, especially on the question of religion and politics. The region has German in 1905 when the French passed legislation separating church and state; today the local government continues to provide a wide variety of subsidies and even religious education in public schools. Fouad Douai, in charge of a bid to build a mosque in the city of Strasbourg, noted that the region “is a model for inter-religious dialogue, which is much stronger here than in the rest of France.”

In 1998, the heads of the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist Churches, as well as members of the Jewish minority signed a letter to the local goverment supporting the construction of the mosque. The mosque’s construction has faced obstacles, however. Construction of the mosque began in 2007 but has now stalled with only the foundation completed. Similarly, in public elementary schools a weekly hour of religion class is required for all students, although their parents can request their children not attend. While there are classes for Catholics, Protestants and Jews, Muslims can take a secular ethics class instead.

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Muslims “not welcome” at interfaith prayer centre in Genoa

A proposal to turn the Commenda di Pre, a medieval palace in Genoa into an inter-faith prayer center for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, has run into opposition from local politicians stating that the Muslim worshippers are not welcome. Members of the anti-immigrant Northern League, said the plan was unacceptable, and regional councillor Francesco Bruzzone stated that Muslims had no business and showed a lack of respect for history by coming to the site – a hospital and hostel where pilgrims and crusaders gathered for mass before leaving for the Holy Land. The incident comes not long after a plan to build a mosque in Genoa was shut down, over the controversy of constructing a mosque with a minaret.

Switzerland: Group says anti-minaret petition to go to national referendum

Swiss nationalists say that they have enough signatures to force a nationwide Swiss referendum on whether or not to ban the construction of minarets on mosques. 103,000 signatures have been verified – exceeding the required minimum of 100,000. If approved, the referendum would take permanent place in the Swiss constitution to ban the towers, used to call Muslims to prayer. A scheduling of the vote has not been set, and may take months to arrange.

Prayer call request ‘naked Islamic imperialism’

A row has flared in the city of Oxford after Muslims submitted an application to the council for the Muslim call to prayer to be broadcasted over loudspeakers. It followed Oxford Central Mosque (OCM) announcement that it would apply to the city council for permission to relay the call to prayer – adhan – from the minaret of its mosque three times a day. Spokesman, Sarder Rana, said OCM would be “happy” if they get permission to make the call to Friday prayers only. Unlike church bells that can be heard from some churches the adhan is called through the use of the human voice. The mu’athin summons Muslims five times a day: at dawn, at midday, in mid-afternoon, just after sunset, and at night about two hours after sunset.