A mosque in Copenhagen’s Nordvest district is approaching completion and, with its minaret and dome, will be Denmark’s first “real” mosque.
So says Mohamed al Mainouni, the media spokesperson for Dansk Islamisk Råd, the organisation responsible for building the mosque.
“The minaret and done are two important aspects of the mosque,” al Mainouni told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “They have an important symbolic meaning and demonstrate that we have a proper place to be and that we are recognised.”
Under Danish law, minarets cannot be used to broadcast a call to prayer.
The 6,800 square metre Sunni mosque on Rovsingsgade will house class rooms, a restaurant, a cinema, childcare facilities and more in what al Mainouni says is the largest mosque in Scandinavia.
The mosque was only possible because of a 150 million kroner donation by the former ruling emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, which has led critics to voice concern that the mosque will be used as mouthpiece for the Islamic state’s conservative views.
Al Mainouni dismissed the criticism, however, and said that without the investment the construction of the mosque would not have been possible. He added that the mosque plans on raising its own money by renting out rooms and facilities.
“The emir donated the money personally from his private bank account but he won’t dictate anything political or ideological. Denmark is the only country in Europe that does not have a [large] mosque and he wanted to give the opportunity to Muslims in [Denmark]," al Mainouni told Jyllands-Posten.
He added that the Friday prayer, which will be spoken in both Arabic and Danish, will be led by Danish imams who would have to be trained abroad.
“Islam in the Middle East is not Islam in Europe,” al Mainouni said. “The mechanisms that work in Europe are not the same as those in Morocco, the Middle East or North Africa. Islam in Europe has its own identity and we want our imam to have that understanding.”
But City Council member Lars Aslan Rasmussen (Socialdemokraterne) questioned al Mainouni’s promise that there won’t be any outside influence.
“Gifts like these from Qatar are not free and I am worried that Muslims in Denmark risk becoming radicalised and pushed even further from the society that they should be a part of,” Rasmussen told Berlingske newspaper, adding that the 25,000 member Dansk Islamisk Råd is a member of The Federation of Islamic Organizations, which has close connections to both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“I am sure that they will end up preaching an ultra conservative interpretation of Islam," Rasmussen said. "I am disappointed that Denmark’s first big mosque will represent this interpretation of Islam. They have the right to open the mosque, but I think that their connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are deeply problematic.”
Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who ruled Qatar for 18 years before handing over power to his son this year, is expected to come to Denmark to open the mosque later this year. While he has been credited with helping transform Qatar from a rural community into a metropolitan, educational and artistic hub in the Middle East with strong links to the West and Israel, he has also been accused of funding terrorist and jihadist organisations in North Africa and Syria.
But al Mainouni explained that the emir has made no demands to influence the teachings at the mosque.
“The best way to start a dialogue and inform about the true principles of Islam is by creating a proper forum to invite Danish politicians to come in for talks and debates. In that way we could promote our moderate message about Islam. The emir liked that idea.”
The construction of the Rovsingsgade mosque has passed beneath the radar of the Danish press and has met little resistance. A planned Shia mosque with a blue dome and two minarets on nearby Vibevej, constructed with financial support from Iran, has faced long delays due to strong protests. There is also a mosque under development in Amager, and Jyllands-Posten reports that mosque projects in Roskilde and Aarhus are also underway and could open by next year.