Whenever a mosque is to be built in a European country, the construction is subject to a years-long legal battle. There is a larger hostility across Europe as the continent’s 20 million Muslims seek to anchor the most tangible foundations of their faith — mosques and minarets — on ground that has traditionally nurtured spires and church bells.
In Britain, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Greece and Italy, local residents and far-right groups have launched protests, petitioned courts and submitted legislation to prevent mosque construction. The reasons range from fears of religious extremism to arguments that minarets have no place in historically Christian — albeit increasingly secular — Europe.
But in other cases, efforts to build mosques have helped unify local communities and better integrate their largely immigrant Muslim populations. Indeed, mosques are becoming a barometer of sorts for whether Europe’s second-largest faith can shape a democratic and multicultural brand of Islam.