MINARETS VS. STEEPLES --THE RISE OF ISLAM OVER THE SKIES OF EUROPE
In the Rhine Valley city of Mannheim, the glittering minaret of Germany's biggest mosque overshadows what was once the region's most vibrant church, testifying to Muslims' new confidence as Christian churches are closing down.
Mannheim is not unique. Across Europe, the Continent's fastest-growing religion is establishing its public presence after decades in basements and courtyards, changing not only the architectural look of cities, but also their social fabrics.
Hailed by many as a sign of Muslim integration, the phenomenon is also feared as evidence of a parallel Islamic world threatening Europe's Christian culture.
"Muslims have come out ... and have become visible," says Claus Leggewie, a political scientist at Germany's University of Giessen who wrote a study on the evolution of the mosque landscape in Germany. "By building expensive, representative mosques, they're sending a message: we want to take part in the symbolic landscape of Germany. We are here and we'll stay here."
Major mosque projects from Cologne, Germany, to Amsterdam to Seville, Spain, have met with fierce opposition and fears that they will serve as breeding grounds for terrorists. Family members of two of the suspects in the Glasgow, Scotland, car bombings this month said the men had been radicalized by Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic revivalist group with plans for an 18-acre complex near London's 2012 Olympic stadium that would house Europe's largest mosque.
Since coming to Germany, Muslim migrant workers like Mr. Kuzpinar have held prayer meetings in dark nooks that reflected the precarious situation of a people often torn between their adopted and their home countries.
But the "guest workers" who helped drive the economic boom of postwar Germany stayed. They set up organizations to run prayer, youth, and senior activities. They moved up the economic ladder, increasing their financial contributions to the groups, and receiving funds from pan-European Muslim organizations supporting the Muslim diaspora.
And now, the third generation is building domed mosques with minarets. Only a handful existed 10 years ago, but today 159 mosques dot Germany today, with 184 under construction, according to the Central Institute for Islamic Archives in Söst.
Aachen, for instance – a German city of 257,000 on the Belgian border with a 9 percent Muslim population – just gave the green light to a domed mosque with a minaret. That's a sign, says Mayor Jürgen Linden, "that Muslims have become a part and parcel of society."
But even in Cologne, in the western part of the country, plans for what would become Germany's biggest mosque – with two 170-foot minarets slated to accommodate 2,000 people – has ignited a conflict of cultures.
With more than 100,000 Muslims living in Cologne, Germany's fourth-largest city, many religious and political leaders have rallied around the mosque plan. But Ralph Giordano, a prominent writer and Holocaust survivor, rekindled fears of a radical Islam threatening German society. "The integration of Muslims has failed," Giordano told the media.
Endter says Germany's mainstream population can no longer afford to ignore that it lives in a country of immigrants.
"You can't say, on the one hand, "We invite you to work, come over,' and on the other hand say, "Yes, you can pray, but only in courtyards, basements, in the shadow of society,'" he says. "We are in a phase of upheaval. The Muslim communities want to integrate. They don't want to live in the shadow anymore."
For the entire article: Christian Science Monitor