East Germany's first mosque to open amid protests

Thu Oct 16, 2008 6:16am EDT
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By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN (Reuters) - The first mosque in the ex-communist eastern part of Germany opens Thursday after years of opposition from some residents and the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD).

The mosque, with room for about 250 people, is on the site of an old sauerkraut factory in the Berlin suburb of Pankow-Heinersdorf.

Attacks on the site and protests, some by residents and others by the NPD, have dogged the mosque's construction.

Local politicians are due to attend the opening ceremony on Thursday evening and police are prepared for demonstrations, although the NPD has called off a march.

The resistance has highlighted Germany's difficulty in integrating its 3.2 million Muslims into mainstream society, especially in the former communist east where few have settled.

Supporters say the mosque will foster better ties.

"The mosque will be a hub of social activity, not just for praying," said Ijaz Ahmad, spokeswoman for the Ahmadiyya mosque.

"It will play a role in boosting integration and promoting dialogue with politicians and other religious groups."   Continued...