Qatar's donation for Danish mosque stirs concern
by Britta Søndergaard
Copenhagen politicians are concerned that Qatar has donated 100 million Danish kroner ($17 milllion) for a new mosque. In the spring Denmark's largest mosque will open on Vingelodden in northwest Copenhagen.
The construction of the new mosque, with a 20 meter (60 feet) high minaret and a cultural center, has been made possible because the stony desert state of Qatar has donated more than 100 million kroner to the Danish Islamic Council, which is directing the project.
This adds Denmark to the long list of countries that receive donations and investments from the small desert state. But Qatar's generosity should be of concern. So says a member of the Left Party caucus in Copenhagen City council, Flemming Steen Munch.
"It is worrisome that a dictatorship like Qatar is interested so dramatically in a small country like Denmark and anxious to see their view of religion preached in Copenhagen. We voted for the mosque, because we cannot prevent the various religious communities from the construction of religious buildings. But it is important to be aware of the messages emanating from the new mosque," says Flemming Steen Munch.
A Conservative member of the Copenhagen City Council, Rasmus Jarlov, says that the Conservatives voted against the mosque, because the party does not want the 20-meter high minaret to dominate northwest Copenhagen.
"We have freedom of religion, but it is clear that Qatar's support will attract attention. It is important that there be no harmful propaganda from the mosque. But conversely, it is not illegal to receive money from Qatar," says Rasmus Jarlov.
A Social Democratic member of the City Council, Taner Yilmaz, says that the support of Qatar was not discussed in the Socialist Group.
"My personal opinion is that it would be best if Muslims in Denmark were able to raise their own money for a mosque, although it would be difficult. Much depends on the conditions of Qatar's support. It is important that they do not make demands in return for aid," said Taner Yilmaz.
So far, Qatar has mainly funded mosques and Islamic cultural centers in Muslim countries. In Europe, Qatar supported mosques in, e.g., France and Italy. More attention has, however, been aroused now that Qatar is investing heavily in French, German and British business.
The American journalist, Middle East expert and Muslim convert Stephen Suleyman Schwartz is among those who find the desert country's generosity problematic:
"When Qatar supports a mosque in Copenhagen, it is intended to create an environment favoring the Muslim Brotherhood. More generally, their goal is to create parallel societies in Europe," said Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, referring to the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, promoting a form of Islam where supporters are strongly devout, while they educate themselves and ask for inclusion in society.
Naser Khader, who is a senior fellow at the U.S. think tank Hudson Institute and has visited Qatar, does not think that the small desert emirate will have a direct impact on the mosque messages.
"Overall, it's hard to figure out what Qatar will do. But traditionally rich Arab countries support mosque buildings to show that they are altruistic and also to gain influence," says Naser Khader.