The question of Islamic radicalism has become one often present in the minds of those who hear of similar ventures. Great care should be taken to ensure that implementing these endeavors for the sake of diversity, tolerance, or even out of ethnic and religious necessity does not suddenly transform into an excuse for preaching hate or radicalization. Many countries in Europe are now dealing with the threat of radical Islam and are consequently modifying their once extremely tolerant attitude.
By Georgiana Constantin | September 10, 2015
Romania has recently been the site of heated debates concerning the possibility of a mega mosque being built in the nation’s capital city, Bucharest.
The project is supposed to be part of a “mutual exchange” program, whereupon Turkey would be given the freedom to build a mosque in Bucharest, at the Turkish state’s expense, and the same courtesy would be extended to the Romanian state, which would be able to build an orthodox church in Istanbul.
This idea has been disputed, however, since Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta stated on July 15th that building a church in Istanbul would be against Turkish law, and that, instead Romania has land from the Turkish state to build a hotel for pilgrims.
However, it would seem that “there is no law against the establishment of churches in Turkey, as in January this year, the Syriac Orthodox community gained approval to construct a church in Yesilkoy, Istanbul.”
Nevertheless, there has been much opposition to the idea of the construction of a new mega mosque in Bucharest, as most of Romania is a Christian nation, almost 90% Orthodox.
The former Romanian president, Traian Basescu, who initially was the one who negotiated the deal, said that such a project would be a threat to national security. “Perhaps you cannot imagine a subway station in Bucharest, during rush hour, where a young man would blow himself up in the name of Allah. Or perhaps your intelligence cannot help you imagine young Romanians who have failed in life being sent off to training camps in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan and brought back to Europe in order to bring us the benefits of the Islamic State,” he wrote on social media.
“The Romanian Government has handed over for free 11,000 square meters of terrain next to the exhibition center ‘Romexpo,’ with a market value of 3.9 million Euro, to the Mufti of Romania, Murat Yusuf,” Eurobserver writes.
The Head of the Muslim Cult of Romania, Mufti Murat Iusuf states that this is a peaceful project and that he cannot understand why it has turned into a “political polemic.”
Initially, the mosque was referred to as “the largest in a European capital.” Later, however, the Mufti declared that his statement regarding the size of the mosque was misconstrued, noting “it will not be the biggest […] in Europe. When I made this statement […] I wanted to evidence the role the Romanian state has and the respect it bears the Turkic-Tatar community in Romania, but unfortunately, while making such a statement, I was misunderstood.” He went on to explain that the project is only meant to be a simple mosque with the capacity to hold 1000 worshipers and that, contrary to rumors which had been circulating, there will be no university, where 6000 students might study, but rather a summer school where Muslim children will be able to learn the basis of their religion from an official representative of Islam. He likened this more to a Sunday school.
At the same time, the question of the preaching of radical Islam in mosques around Bucharest was raised. To this he replied that the phenomenon is widely spread, as most of these mosques, 95% in fact, are not authorized to function as such by the proper authorities and so he has no control over them.
Arguments for and against the project have surfaced everywhere in the mainstream and social media. People have even rallied in the streets and protested against the endeavor.
Maximillian Marco Katz, the founder and director of MCA Romania, The Center for Combating and Monitoring Anti-Semitism, issued a warning concerning the plan, which read: “MCA Romania warns against likely attempts to transform this ambitious project into a center to be used by radical Islamic elements as a regional base for their anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-democracy, pro-terror activities.” The warning continued, “clearly demonstrated around the world [that] mosques and Islamic universities are often involved in advocating for and supporting terrorism, anti-Semitism and violence against ‘infidels’; Jews and Christians alike.”
MCA stated that it would welcome any place of worship which promotes tolerance but that this project is not one that should be put into practice without “first investigating fully the sources of funding” and the parties behind it.
The question of Islamic radicalism has become one often present in the minds of those who hear of similar ventures. Great care should be taken to ensure that implementing these endeavors for the sake of diversity, tolerance, or even out of ethnic and religious necessity does not suddenly transform into an excuse for preaching hate or radicalization.
Many countries in Europe are now dealing with the threat of radical Islam and are consequently modifying their once extremely tolerant attitude. Some are even replacing tolerance with xenophobia.
Such attitudes, however, do not make for a very stable society, so, before any new element is to be added into the social equation, much research and thought must be employed, to ensure that the long term consequences are indeed worth the short term benefits.
Georgiana Constantin is a law school graduate who has studied International, European and Romanian law at the Romanian-American University in Bucharest and received her Masters from the Nicolae Titulescu University in Bucharest. Ms. Constantin, who is based in Romania, is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.