From a Communist Area to a Mosque in Germany

October 17, 2008

Author: Melissa Eddy

Source: The Seattle Times

Wire Service: AP

The first mosque with a minaret and a dome in Germany's formerly communist east opened Thursday as police corralled protesters behind a roadblock three blocks away.

As police blocked off the street, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community celebrated the construction of the Khadija Mosque, a white, two-story structure capped with a 42-foot silver dome in Berlin's Pankow district.

Several blocks away, some 300 people attended a protest organized by grass-roots group that opposes what it considers the Ahmadis' strict religious beliefs and a lack of religious freedom in Muslim countries.

Most of Germany's more than 3 million Muslims come from Turkey and live in the West. Berlin has some 70 mosques, mostly tucked away in old warehouses or other nondescript buildings in western parts of the city.

"This one is special," said Fazlur Rehman Anwar, a member of the Ahmadiyya community in Hamburg, who was in Berlin for the opening. "It is in the capital. It is the first one in [the former] East Germany."

The city's top security official welcomed the new Muslim house of worship and expressed hope it would help in the integration of the city's roughly 220,000 Muslims.