Mosques have been visible in the European landscape for centuries, starting with the Moors in Spain, followed by the Ottomans in the Balkans and the Tatars in the Baltic region. More recent additions have been made due to the arrival of migrants and refugees from Muslim countries. European engineers and architects have declared mosques some of the most beautiful architectural wonders in the world. This presents opportunities to add aesthetic value to the European cultural heritage. However, it is of critical importance the design of European mosques fits in with the European cultural heritage.
Specific criteria for the construction of mosques and minarets could be definedso as to integrate future mosques in the existing architectural heritage. The result should be greater support for the idea of adding the mosques to the public space, rather than banning them. This does not mean that European mosques must abandon a long and rich heritage. For example, while minarets are not fundamentally important to the construction of a mosque, they are of symbolic importance to the identity of many migrant and refugee Muslim communities in Europe, and they help to prevent a sense of cultural alienation.
unnamedThe construction of large mosques in Western European symbolizes the existence of a new self-confidence in the Muslim community in Europe after decades of being in the shadows. This new visibility in the public space evokes criticism from mainstream society and contributes to the heated debate about the role of Islam in Europe. While some reject the construction of mosques out of hand, tolerant voicesemphasize that mosques can also serve as venues for inter-religious and cultural exchange and transfer.
Mosques are a significant social platform for religious and cultural exchange and a sanctuary for individuals to explore and practice their beliefs. Mosques are also helping to make Islam visible, replacing undignified prayer sites in warehouses and basements. They show that Islam is part of Europe.
The role of the architectural design.
“What makes a mosque to mosque? That’s easy: a wall that is exactly aligned to Mecca”. So short and succinctly does the Kuwaiti designer and architecture,professor Omar Khattab, define the characteristics of a Muslim place of prayer. The architecture of the mosque, while replete with traditions and references, has only a few aesthetic design requirements. That leaves the designer free to re-imagine how a mosque should look.
The old mosques from those regions of Europe, which at one time had been under Muslim rule, as well as the first immigrant mosques, live up to the stereotypical mosque. By contrast, mosques that have been recently build, along with those on the drawing board, take many of their cues from the surrounding ascetics and trends in modern European architecture while remaining true to core traditional values. Examples are the large mosque in Rome, the mosque in Penzberg in southern Germany and the impending large mosque in Munich’s city center. Copenhagen has also recently added its first large purpose-built mosque, and plans on the drawing board for more. These mosques incorporate architectural diversity, modernity, transformation and reinterpretation of the classic Islamic architecture. These mosques have emerged as a new and self-contained European Islamic architecture. They express an identity where Muslims can exercise and develop their spirituality in a European context.
Ahmed Krausen lives and works as a freelance photographer in Copenhagen, Denmark. For over a decade, Ahmed has concentrated his photographical work on the physical manifestations of Islam in Europe. As a European Muslim and convert to Islam, Ahmed’s faith is the central inspiration for his photography.The focus of this project has to make the diversity of Islam in Europe visible. This is accomplished by combining of images of both ancient and modern mosques from different European countries, thereby giving a glimpse into Muslim lives in Europe. Ahmed´s photos have beendisplayedin many countries, includingGermany, Italy, Cairo, London, and the United Arab Emirates. His work has also been used in numerous books and articles. His website: www.ahmedkrausen.com