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23 Oct, 2009 06:20

Danish Muslims strive to build first mosque in the country

In Denmark, there are fears that Islamic fundamentalism could spread, with plans for an Iranian-funded Mosque. It would be the first purpose-built place of worship for the country's quarter of a million Muslims.

The Iranian government says it is not involved, but that is little comfort for some in a country so sensitive to Islam.

Mosques in Denmark usually look like a cramped apartment than a shrine.

The country that is home to a quarter of a million Muslims does not have a single purpose-built place of worship.

Now Muslims in Denmark want to build their first mosque – one that would actually look like a mosque. Their argument is they are the second biggest religion in the country, and now they have to go to warehouses to pray.

There are dozens of such prayer houses in the country, but there are plans to build a big mosque in traditional style

“If there is a major mosque built, this is a signal of acceptance and belonging. Muslims will get Danish identity through establishing a proper mosque,” says Abdul Wahid Pedersen from Muslim council of Denmark.

The mosque's architect says two or three rich Iranians will fund the project, and the Iranian government won't be involved. But despite the assurances, the seeds of doubt have been sown.

Right wing politicians in Denmark are stoking fears the mosque could become a base for Islamic fundamentalists.

"We are afraid that Iran is financing it. We think it's a bad idea, if we accept extremists building a mosque in the centre of Copenhagen,” shares his fears vice-chairman of Danish People’s party Peter Skaarup. “There is a very likely possibility that the Iranian state will try to keep an eye on the freedom fighters we [have] received from Iran."

Copenhagen's Town Hall will decide the project's fate.

“They cannot deny the project because they do not like the funding,” explains Ulrik Winge from center for city design. “They can deny it because they don't like the architecture or whatever.”

Every Muslim is sensitive about their identity, says a taxi driver, Ahmad, who has lived in Denmark for 18 years and experienced discrimination.

“It would be nice to have a symbol of Islam instead of an old gym or an old house. It is not fun going to a house which is supposed to be a mosque – it is humiliating," he says.

The majority of Danes are not against the mosque, but they want transparency about who's going to be running the place.

Imams say everyone is free to throw money into the hat, but they will make sure the management decisions will be made in Denmark, not elsewhere.