When Denmark’s largest mosque opens its doors in Copenhagen’s Nordvest neighbourhood tomorrow, who is in attendance may be overshadowed by who is not.
Proponents of the Sunni-run mosque point to a Shia imam’s participation in the opening ceremony as a sign that the mosque will celebrate tolerance and inclusion and avoid the division between Islam’s two major denominations that is the source of violence and conflict in the Middle East.
“It is important that we as Muslims recognise that we no longer live in the Middle East,” Shia imam Seyed Mohammed Khademi told public broadcaster DR. “We live in Europe now and have become Europeans. That is what I am trying to convey to my members.”
But Khademi’s participation has done little to assuage the fears of those who say that the mosque’s 150 million kroner of funding from the former ruler of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, has come with the expectation that the mosque will follow a conservative brand of Islam. Several politicians have expressed concerns that the mosque will promote radicalism.
The Danish Islamic Council (Dansk Islamisk Råd), which is responsible for the operation of the mosque, has repeatedly dismissed those accusations, saying that the emir’s financial contribution will not allow him to dictate the mosque’s political or ideological leanings.
But many have remained sceptical. The royal family, the prime minister and several other prominent politicians were invited to today’s opening but only one Copenhagen deputy mayor planned to attend.
According to Yildiz Akdogan, a Social Democrat member of the Copenhagen city council the decision to stay away could lead to exactly what the politicians fear.
“Some conservative and radicalised forces will use this as yet another argument against the democratic system and as proof hat politicians as a whole do not want Muslims,” she told DR.
Mohamed Al Maimouni, a spokesperson for the Islamic Council agreed.
“Many Danish Muslims will feel unwelcome and that is a crucial element that can lead to worse integration in Denmark,” he told radio station P4.
The 6,800 square metre mosque on Rovsingsgade is being billed as the largest in Scandinavia and includes Denmark’s first minaret, though it is barred by law from broadcasting calls to prayer.
“Muslims have waited for this for more than 40 years,” Al Maimouni said. “It really means a lot for us.”