Does huge mosque planned for Helsinki pose threat?

Does huge mosque planned for Helsinki pose threat?
A large mosque complex in the Finnish capital has led to protests against its construction and a fierce political debate. Could the mosque bring people together or will it only deepen divisions within the society?

The construction of a mosque in the Finnish capital might pose a security risk, according to the country's interior ministry. 

The warning comes after it emerged the government of Bahrain could fund the new building. 

The Oasis Mosque compound, which could accommodate about 1,200 worshippers and be about twice the size of the city's Lutheran cathedral, was first proposed two years ago and is scheduled to open in 2024.

The mosque itself accounts for only about 15 percent of the complex which will also include a community center.

The interior ministry says the involvement of Bahrain might decrease the feeling of belonging to Finnish society among Muslims. Some argue that getting a mosque might make Muslims feel more welcome.

RT discussed with Matias Turkkila, editor-in-chief of the Finns Party newspaper and Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation in Britain.

Matias Turkkila: This is a big question in Finnish politics, especially in Helsinki city politics. We just had the municipal elections, and the winner had a very strong stance against the building of the mosque. Actually, he was elected the mayor of the city for the next four years, and this was one of his main topics, and he received more votes than anyone ever in the Finnish municipal elections. It is indeed a very hot topic. And the concerns are especially about the financing. The discussion is that the money, $150 million would come from the Gulf area – Bahrain, but there are many questions of why would someone would give this huge sum of money and not make some other obligations for this money.

RT: Does the city need a mosque that big? There were already protests against its construction, way before Bahraini funding came to light. How do you feel about it?

Mohammed Shafiq: Sixty percent of the mosque is going to be about integration and reaching out to wider Finnish society. A multi-faith center, a garden, as I understand, as well - that would be available for people to use. That is the reality of what is happening. The Finnish government and other governments have arm deals with various governments around the world, they are happy for their governments to sell arms to regimes around the world and take the money for that but when it comes to Muslims, who are vibrant members of the Finnish society, who want to build the mosque there, they kick up the fuss. This is more to do with discrimination; it is more to do with the rampant anti-Muslim hatred that we’ve seen perpetuated by politicians and people in the media over many years here in Europe. And it is just an indication that if you are Muslim, you can’t practice your faith freely. You cannot build your own places of worships. And that goes against everything: the European values, the European ideals of religious freedom stand for.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.