How visible can mosques be in non-Muslim countries?
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In an attempt to discover how mosques look like – past, present and future trends in Islamic architecture – Euro-Muslims dedicates this space to mosques in Europe.
Allover Europe, Muslims pray in a variety of worship places: purpose built mosques with domes and minarets, Islamic centers, prayer rooms, as well as “hidden” and temporary mosques. Yet, in the public imagination, all these forms are coined by the generic term mosque, which seems to be a synonymous for Islamic place of worship.
In the context of the tendency to see Islam and Muslims as an exceptional case, Islamic places of worship have gained more and more attention in European countries; their continuously increasing number and greater visibility made mosques more and more controversial.
Comparing the total number of Muslim inhabitants in the examined countries (18.06 million Muslims) with the number of mosques, (10,869 mosques), the result is roughly equivalent to one mosque for every 1,660 inhabitants – a significant amount roughly comparable to that obtaining in many Muslim countries or, in Europe, to places of worship of the dominant Christian religion in the respective countries, according to the report Conflicts Over Mosques in Europe: Policy Issues and Trends (p. 24).
The following information complied based on the same report briefly presents the situation of each examined country (the term mosque used herein reflects all the categories of Islamic worship places mentioned above):
- France, the country with the largest Islamic presence in Europe, about 5.5 million people, or 8 per cent of the population, has approximately 2,100 Islamic places of worship.
- Germany, which hosts the second greatest Muslim community ( estimated at 3.2–3.4 million Muslims or 3 per cent of population) has the highest number of mosques in Europe (at least 2,600) and also the highest ratio between the number of mosques and the number of Muslims in Europe (if we exclude Bosnia).
- The United Kingdom, with 2.4 million Muslims has over 1,000 mosques (between 850 and 1,500 is the estimate).
- In the Netherlands there are about 432 mosques for 1 million Muslims, close to the European average despite the country’s image as being particularly open to (or according to some, invaded by) mosques.
- In Belgium, the first European country (in 1974) to put Islam, at least formally, on an equal footing with other recognized religious denominations, there are 330 mosques for barely half a million Muslims.
- Austria has about 390–400,000 Muslims and some 200 mosques, a percentage rather higher than the European average.
- Spain has a little under 1 million Muslims and 454 mosques, of which 14 are purpose-built.
- In Italy there are an estimated 1.3 million Muslims and about 660 prayer halls but quite a few mosques in the truest sense.
- In Greece. there are many mosques in proportion to the total Muslim population: almost one for every 600–700 Muslims, but Athens remains the only European capital without a mosque.
- In Sweden, the Islamic presence numbers 350–400,000 people, or 3.8–4.4 per cent of the population, and fewer than 50 prayer halls, but six mosques were purpose-built: a significant percentage.
- In Denmark, where the number of Muslims (200,000) is half that of Sweden (though almost the same in percentage terms) there are twice as many prayer halls (115).
- In Norway, some 120,000 Muslims have about 120 prayer halls.
- Finland has a small Muslim population (40.000) and 30-40 mosques (among them only 5 are purpose built).
- Bosnia, where Muslims represent the largest religious confession (about 40% of the inhabitants are “ethnic” Muslims), has 1867 Islamic places of worship.