Monday, July 21, 2008

Mosques increasingly not welcome in Europe

I wonder why. Compare this to America, where the US State Department is promoting a "Mosques of America" calendar, and some American conservatives are unhappy about it.

Mosques increasingly not welcome in Europe

By Jeffrey Stinson, USA TODAY
LONDON — Europeans are increasingly lashing out at the construction of mosques in their cities as terrorism fears and continued immigration feed anti-Muslim sentiment across the continent.

The latest dispute is in Switzerland, which is planning a nationwide referendum to ban minarets on mosques. This month, Italy's interior minister vowed to close a controversial mosque in Milan.

Some analysts call the mosque conflicts the manifestation of a growing fear that Muslims aren't assimilating, don't accept Western values and pose a threat to security. "It's a visible symbol of anti-Muslim feelings in Europe," says Danièle Joly, director of the Center for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick in England. "It's part of an Islamophobia. Europeans feel threatened."

The disputes reflect unease with the estimated 18 million Muslims who constitute the continent's second-biggest religion, living amid Western Europe's predominantly Christian population of 400 million, Joly says.

Anti-Muslim sentiment

The clashes also represent a turnaround from the 1980s and '90s, when construction of large mosques was accepted and even celebrated in many cities. "I think the tide has turned," Joly says.

Indicative of the change:

• Supporters of the Swiss referendum collected enough signatures two weeks ago to call for a constitutional ban on minarets, the towers used to call worshipers to prayer. No date has been set for the vote.

• Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni announced this month that he wants to close a Milan mosque because crowds attending Friday prayers spill onto the street and irritate neighbors. In April, the city of Bologna scrapped plans for a new mosque, saying Muslim leaders failed to meet certain requirements, including making public its source of funding.

• In Austria, the southern province of Carinthia passed a law in February that effectively bans the construction of mosques by requiring them to fit within the overall look and harmony of villages and towns.

• Far-right leaders from 15 European cities met in Antwerp, Belgium, in January and called for a ban on new mosques and a halt to "the Islamization" of European cities. The group said mosques act as catalysts for taking over neighborhoods and imposing Islamic ways of life on Europeans.


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