The construction of one of Europe’s biggest mosques near a globally famous Christian landmark has sparked a furious row in Germany.
Immigration and integration are hugely sensitive questions in Germany, which is home to a Turkish community of several million.
But almost within the shadow of Cologne Cathedral, political correctness has now been replaced by bitter confrontation, as the city’s Muslims begin to build a 2,000-capacity mosque whose twin minarets will reach 170 feet.
“Muslims have been here for 40 years, yet people are praying in back rooms,” said Seyda Can, an Islamic theologian at the Turkish Islamic Union in Cologne. “There are 120,000 Muslims in Cologne, that’s 12% of the population. We should not hide.”
Work will begin in the autumn on the $30 million mosque, which will include huge glass and stone cupolas and two six-story minarets.
Ms. Can, who speaks fluent German, is an eloquent advocate for the mosque, arguing that when completed in 2009, it will aid the integration of a population sometimes regarded as outsiders. “With this mosque, Muslims will no longer think of their old countries as their home, but of Germany,” she said.
“Two hundred years ago, the first Protestant church was built in Cologne. It was a long process for Protestants to be accepted, but today, of course, they are. Why can’t we be the same?”
However, others believe that the mosque in the city’s Ehrenfeld district, just two miles from the Gothic spires of Cologne Cathedral, will foster, rather that heal, divisions.
“It’s not a popular plan,” said Joerg Uckermann, the district’s deputy mayor. “We don’t want to build a Turkish ghetto in Ehrenfeld. I know about Londonistan, and I don’t want that here.”