Though Islam is the continent’s second religion, Muslims across Europe are facing campaigns from far-right groups and some church leaders to have stately mosques.
Critics claim mosques are signs of the “Islamization” of Europe.
“I have a queasy feeling,” Cologne Catholic Cardinal Joachim Meisner told Reuters.
“A mosque would give the city a different panorama. Given our history, there is a shock that Muslim immigration has brought a cultural rupture in our German and European culture.”
Riem Spielhaus, an expert on Islam in Europe at Berlin’s Humboldt University, argued that mosque construction is a controversial issue because houses of worship in general have a high symbolic value in Europe, where the cathedral or church is usually the center of town.
“A mosque symbolically retraces the changes that have been made in society,” she said.
“It reopens the debate on whether these changes are good, whether Muslims should live here, even whether Islam is a good religion.”
Spielhaus said opposition to mosques is also related to other issues irrelevant to the house of worship itself like Islam as a religion and security threats.
Last month, the private secretary of Pope Benedict XVI of the Vatican gave voice to a spiraling Islamophobia in the continent warning of the “Islamization of Europe” and urging defense of Europe’s “Christian roots.”