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    Slippery Slope: Denmark Bets on Mosques to Promote Integration

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    Despite its earlier painful experiences with radical Islam amid the raging migrant crisis, Denmark continues building mosques to cater to its growing Muslim population. Oddly enough, this measure is promoted as a means to alleviate immersion into the Danish society.

    A man during the official opening of Denmark's first mosque with a dome and minaret in Rovsingsgade, Copenhagen
    © AFP 2019 / SCANPIX DENMARK / THOMAS LEKFELDT
    In 1967, Denmark built its first mosque. Since then, mosques have ceased to be an oddity in the Nordic country with a growing Muslim community. In recent years, however, the peaceful co-existence was shattered, as numerous local imams were caught on film, preaching, among other things, about domestic violence against unfaithful women, insubordination to the civic authorities and killing ‘Zionist Jews.' This uncanny revelation unleashed a number of other disclosures about the ongoing radicalization of Danish Muslims in Mosques.

    The notorious discoveries, embodied in the TV-film "Mosques Behind the Veil," set the Danish society at odds with the country's Muslim community, stirring a major debate on the appropriateness of building more mosques. Thus, the construction of a 'super mosque' in the Danish city of Aarhus was put on hold amid public fears that it would become a reprise of the infamous Grimhøj Mosque, which made international headlines last year by openly declaring support for Daesh and whose name in Denmark became synonymous with a hotbed of radical Islam.

    ​Nevertheless, a new albeit much smaller mosque was recently opened in the very same city of Aarhus to meet local demands. The new 1,200 square meter mosque has a 14-meter-high dome, and will soon be also furnished with a minaret. The total construction bill landed at around 16 million DKK (roughly 2.5 million USD). The mosque imams come from Turkey and have a higher education, which was paid for by the Turkish state.

    The mosque's spokesman Vahip Pelit believes that councilors and politicians should give the green light for the construction of more mosques, which, according to him would rather ease integration of Muslims into Danish society than thwart it.

    "If politicians help people fulfill their wishes, people will feel respected and will do their best in return. One would never do it, if constantly pushed aside," Vahip Pelit told Danish Radio.

    According to him, the industrial zone, in which the mosque was ultimately built, is no right place.

    "I would have liked a real mosque in the city center, which would really show diversity and stress the fact that there are other cultures than Christianity in this multicultural city," Pelit explained.

    Earlier this year, Danish authorities tried such peculiar ways to promote integration as launching a female-led mosque with women-only admission for Friday prayers. Despite priding itself on becoming Scandinavia's first mosque with a feminist stance, Copenhagen-based Miriam Mosque came under severe criticism from enraged orthodox Muslims.

    ​At the same time, Denmark is struggling with the problem of visiting hate preachers, obviously hesitating between tightening the screws on extremism and sticking to its traditional support for freedom of speech, no matter how far it is stretches. Curiously enough, it was the very same Denmark that in 2005 unleashed one of the modern era's largest media scandals through publishing cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, which set the Muslim world ablaze.

    At present, Islam is Denmark's largest minority religion. According to figures, reported by the BBC, Denmark has a Muslim population of about 270,000 (4.8 percent of a total population of 5.6 million).

    According to a poll conducted in October 2015 by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, 40 percent of all Danish Muslims believe that the law in Denmark should be based solely on the words of the Quran, whereas 77 percent believe that the Quran should be followed word for word.

    Topic:
    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

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    Tags:
    religious extremism, radical Islam, Islam, Aarhus, Turkey, Scandinavia, Denmark
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