Big mosque opened in western German industrial city

Other News Materials 26 October 2008 23:16 (UTC +04:00)

A grand mosque with room for 1,200 was inaugurated Sunday in the German city of Duisburg with none of the recriminations that have soured a mosque building plan in nearby Cologne, dpa reported.

Christian leaders spoke at the ceremonial opening and the City of Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra played as well as Turkish bands. Police said there were no protests.

In an inaugural speech, the premier of North Rhine Westphalia state, Juergen Ruettgers, affirmed the right of 3.3 million Muslims in Germany to build mosques as big as they liked.

"We need more mosques in this country, not in inner courtyards, but visible and recognizable ones," he said.

The contrast was telling with Cologne, where some civic leaders have charged that a planned mosque is "too big" and there was rioting last month as far rightists vainly attempted to hold an anti-Islam rally.

Civic officials said one difference from affluent, middle-class Cologne, 55 kilometres away, is that ethnic Turkish Muslims form a major bloc of population in gritty, working-class Duisburg, an old coal and steel town.

In the suburb of Marxloh where the mosque was built, Muslims make up about one-third of the 18,000 residents.

The designers of the 7.5-million-euro (9.4-million-dollar) complex forestalled German criticisms by including plate-glass windows to make the mosque's inner workings more visible.

There will also be no muezzin calling to prayer by loudspeaker from the Duisburg mosque's 34-metre minaret, a practice that some anti-mosque groups elsewhere have put at the centre of criticism.

The state government and the European Union put in 3 million euros in subsidies for the complex, which includes a community centre, cafe and the mosque itself capped with several Ottoman-style domes.

Another 4 million euros was contributed by Muslim faithful in an international fund-raising drive.