A controversial new mosque approaches completion in Cologne, Germany
The Cologne Central Mosque aims to create a dialogue between the Muslims and non-Muslims inhabiting the city. It will become a space for inter-faith relations, bridging Islam and Christianity.
Since its inception in 2006 however, things have gone far from smoothly. A prolonged row between the German architect Paul Böhm and its commissioners the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) continues, threatening the realisation of the project. The retired mayor of Cologne Fritz Schramma has since intervened, bringing the two sides to a compromise after much deliberation over the project which should have been completed in summer 2011. He is eager for the mosque to be ‘soon be filled with life’.
Böhm won a competition to design the mosque in 2006. His mosque is at a grand scale, with a minaret reaching 55m high and space for 1,200 worshippers. It will house a bazaar, lecture halls and a Muslim library. The domed roof and light façade is reminiscent of the Ottoman architectural style. An adjoining cultural centre provides space for businesses like a hairdressers and travel agents. Upon completion, it will become Germany’s biggest mosque and rank high on the list for Europe.
He has now accused DITIB of conspiring against him, claiming it repeatedly changed the building plans and produced a list of extra demands. This resulted in the initial costs climbing from €17m to €34m. DITIB has described Böhm as 'a brilliant artist but a failed construction manager' and have accused him secretly placing Christian symbols into the building. Böhm has denied the allegations. DITIB have been accused of becoming increasingly conservative, but are now going ahead with the project with Böhm playing the role of advisor.
From the outset, the mosque has caused much controversy. Local residents have complained about its imposing appearance. Others are concerned with keeping Cologne a ‘Christian City’. Many right-wing groups such as the anti-immigrant movement Pro Köln have so far opposed it. The emergence of a prominent Islamic presence in Germany has caused national debate.
The majority of the public seems to be in support however. Cologne's mayor Jürgen Roters has endorsed the mosque, stating: “It's important that our fellow Muslim citizens get their own dignified place of prayer and meeting, and that the project is not hampered by further rows or misused for anti-foreigner propaganda”.
But Böhm remains contentious, believing the completion is far from safe. “The differences of opinion have remained,” he says.