Denmark's first 'real' mosque opens

Denmark's first 'real' mosque opens

COPENHAGEN - Denmark's largest purpose-built mosque, including the country's first minaret, opens on Thursday in Copenhagen's gritty northwest district after receiving a 150 million kroner (S$34 million) endowment from Qatar.

The longstanding political influence of the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party (DPP), as well as the row over Prophet Mohammed cartoons that led to deadly protests in Muslim countries have strained relations between Denmark's largest religious minority and the majority population.

After years of political wrangling and "not in my backyard" protests, Copenhagen's Muslim community is cheering the opening of the 6,700 square metre (72,118 square feet) complex that will house a mosque, a cultural centre, a television studio and a fitness centre.

But sandwiched between a car dealership and a self storage firm in a low income district, it is not quite the symbol of mainstream acceptance that many of Denmark's 200,000 Muslims had hoped for.

The absence of any Danish politician of note at Thursday's inauguration will also highlight the scepticism with which many Danes view the project, not least after it was announced that the funding came from gas-rich Qatar, which has a patchy record on human rights and has lately been embroiled in a corruption scandal over its winning bid for the 2022 World Cup.

'Foolish'

While most politicians have merely said they are otherwise engaged, a few have been more forthright.

The leader of the Liberal Alliance party, Anders Samuelsen, told daily Berlingske he couldn't "quite figure out the financing ... and I will not risk endorsing something that is foolish to endorse." The DPP's leader, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, said he believed Qatar's conservative government "will very likely expect to have a direct or indirect influence on the mosque," hampering the integration of Muslims in Danish society.

Between 2001 and 2011, Denmark's minority centre-right governments relied on the DPP's support in parliament, in return for which the party was able to tighten Danish immigration policies into some of the toughest in Europe.

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