Mosque building brings Islam fears to Poland

Thu Apr 1, 2010 12:03pm EDT
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By Gabriela Baczynska

WARSAW (Reuters) - In a sight familiar in some west European countries but new to Poland, dozens of protesters demonstrated in a Warsaw suburb last weekend against the construction of a mosque.

Plans by Poland's tiny Muslim community to build a place of worship and an Islamic cultural center face opposition in a sign that concerns about Islam may be spreading eastwards to the staunchly Catholic European Union member.

Between 15,000 and 30,000 Muslims, many of them immigrants from Chechnya, live in Poland -- the biggest ex-communist EU state where more than 90 percent of the 38-million population declare themselves Catholics.

Some 150 people protested at the half-finished building site, a 30-minute drive from the city center, where the Muslim League, a religious organization established in Poland in 2004 is building what will be only the country's fifth mosque with government permission.

"Such centres are very often sources of radicalization," said one protester, who like most of the demonstrators was happy to be filmed but unwilling to give his name.

He brandished a banner depicting minarets as missiles that resembled a stark image used in a Swiss referendum when electors voted last year to ban new minarets.

Others chanted "Let's not repeat Europe's mistakes" and "Blind tolerance kills common sense," and demanded that Muslim countries respect women's rights and religious freedom.

"Look at what's happening in Europe, I don't want my daughter to be forced to wear a burka in the future," a male protester said of the all-covering full-length veil which is the object of fierce debate in France.   Continued...