American Renaissance

Minarets Rise in Germany

A surge in the building of mosques is another sign of the transforming power of immigration. But the Islamic centers of faith also prompt fear.

Jeffrey Fleishman, L. A. Times, Mar. 17

BERLIN — The chink and scrape of stonecutters echo through the gray-domed mosque that rises like a glimmer of misplaced architecture in a city where the Muslim call to prayer is a widening whisper.

Dusted in marble, workmen scurry in the muted glow of stained glass. Some paint Koranic verses on the walls; others make last-minute alterations to golden-tipped minarets pricking a drizzly skyline. Anxious Berliners sometimes peek into the courtyard, where Ali Gulcek, a husky, nimble man, assures them his religion is not a threat.

“I need to enlighten the Germans so their prejudice of Islam will go away,” said Gulcek, whose Islamic organization is building the mosque. “Our mosque will be completed in May. We’ve wanted a legitimate mosque for so long. For years, we’ve been meeting in backyards and basements. We don’t want to hide anymore.”

Gulcek’s mosque is part of the surge in Islamic construction sweeping Germany. The number of traditional mosques with their distinctive minarets nearly doubled in Germany from 77 in 2002 to 141 in 2003, according to Islam Archive, a Muslim research group in the city of Soest. An additional 154 mosques and cultural centers are planned, many of them in the countryside, where vistas are dotted with symbols of crescent moons and crosses.

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