The Grand Mosque in Stockholm was inaugurated in June 2000. Located in Södermalm in the south of Stockholm City, it is currently the largest mosque in Sweden. The project was originally delayed because of protests and appeals. 8 years after Mohammad Fateh Atia, a consultant working at the Mosque says that attitudes have changed.
“I would like to say that it has been a quite good, positive response. We find that the situation has changed to the better and the Mosque has been more and more accepted in the society and the community around it.”
Talking about the challenges, she says: “There have been different situations around the world since 9/11 for instance and around 7/7 in the U.K. and this kind of terrorist activities have somehow increased the reactions from the people who don’t like us being here.”
About 50,000 people visit the mosque each year. Atia says, “Around 20000 of them are booked visitors, school classes – and there are not less than approximately 30000 un-booked visitors.”
The Mosque itself was originally built as an electric power station. The building is not spectacular from the outside, since the city code of Stockholm prohibits buildings from "striking out,” but the decorative touches that define a mosque can be found inside with enormous crystal chandeliers hang from the ceilings and Islamic patterns can be seen etched by the vaulted windows. The listed building was converted to a mosque during the 1990s.
“I think it’s a good thing because you see people from all over the world meeting in the Mosque,” says one. “I think it’s nice. You see Islam in the middle of the city which you didn’t before, so I think that’s good.”
Another says: “The Mosque is a bit of peace and quiet and even if I’m not a Muslim I can still look at it and I feel the peace from it.”
One man who visited the mosque on a guided tour says: “I don’t mind the cultural diversity it brings to the centre of Stockholm. We have the Catholic Church in the middle of the city as well and Sweden is a Protestant country so I don’t mind that – we have the Grand Synagogue as well, so I think it’s a great thing.”
Listen to the report:
With Europe quickly becoming a melting pot, cities and towns are starting to see mosques being built alongside churches. They generate fierce debate. And it’s not about building codes and architecture—though the talk is usually focused around that. It’s not really about the buildings themselves at all, but about the people who worship in them. We bring you stories this week about mosque building projects across the continent, and reactions to them. The programme is presented in Marseille, in the south of France, where almost a quarter of the population is Muslim, and which should soon see a grand mosque built.
A project in London has been forced to scale down its plans following bitter protests lead by a local councillor. It was originally billed as “the biggest mosque in Europe”. Now, even though the plans have changed—and it may not quite live up to the name—opposition remains strong. The Tablighi Jamaat, the conservative Muslim missionary group that’s behind the proposal is seen by Western intelligence agencies as providing a recruiting ground for extremists.
The Netherlands has nearly a million Muslims, mostly Turkish and Moroccan. There’s tension there between them and the native Dutch population. This has held up two huge mosque projects in the country--one in Rotterdam and one in the capital Amsterdam.
Critics of mosque projects often bring up the spectre of minarets eclipsing church steeples. In Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel made a comment that mosque “cupolas” shouldn’t be built “demonstratively higher than church steeples”. Work on a mosque in Cologne, whose most famous landmark is its cathedral, is set to start this spring. The plans have made people question the role of Islam and the success of integration in Germany. Most of Germany’s Muslims are Turkish who came as “guest workers” starting in the 1960s. Many stayed and settled. Peter Phillips says the reason there is resistance to mosques in Germany is because Germans don’t know much about Islam and the Muslims who live among them.
It’s hard to get an accurate figure of how many Muslims there are in Europe. France has the most—5 or 6 million people, who make up nearly 9% of the population. In the UK, they’re about 3%. But some countries, like Poland, have barely enough to make a blip on the radar. In the southern city of Krakow, some question the need for an Islamic Cultural centre because the community is so small.
Another country with a small Muslim population is Slovenia, though Islam is the second largest religion there, after Orthodox Christianity. And yet, there’s no mosque. And the story of trying to get one built in Ljubljana, the capitol, has been long and fraught with delays.
For the past three weeks we’ve been giving you clues for you to come up with the name of a French composer whose birth 100 years ago is being celebrated this year. The answer is Olivier Messiaen, who was born in Avignon on December 10, 1908, and died in Paris in 1992. The man who gave you the clues all month is journalist and music critic Claude Samuel, who is organizing events around the centennial celebration this year. We announce the winner of the quiz on the air. If you want to know more about the centennial of Olivier Messiaen’s birth, visit http://www.messiaen2008.com/en/index.php
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