The Slovenia Times

Minaret Under the Alps



The representative of the Muslim community, mufti Osman , had this to say: "I never thought I would encounter such resistance, and so many irrational arguments." While waiting for the bureaucratic mills to turn and for public opinion to alter, the community (mainly consisting of Bosnian Muslims, who came to work in Slovenia in the times of Yugoslavia) has continued performing its rituals in small or rented properties - even in sports facilities. The story of the mosque dates back to 1969, when the idea was first put forward. In the eighties, plans were issued by the local authority to meet the demand but the necessary permissions were never issued. As a result, the community opted for a temporary solution - they bought a house to use for meetings and prayer. In the early nineties, the original building plans were finally abandoned due to changes in urban planning for the area - the mosque could no longer be placed where it was originally intended. The process then stopped for another ten years, until a new location was granted in 1999. Things were looking good for the community and they were looking forward to laying the first foundation stones, when another problem appeared. The neighbours weren't too enthusiastic about the fact that a mosque was to be built nearby. They were bothered by the possibility of diseases being brought by pilgrims from Mecca, by the noise from the minaret, and they claimed that the building wouldn't fit culturally into the surrounding environment. They complained, and thus further complicated the procedure. The fate of the mosque then became subject to divided opinions within the city council. While those supporting the left-center position favoured the idea, the opposition was of the opinion that Muslims' needs could be adequately served by smaller places. Vika Potocnik, the ex-major, tried to reach a consensus, but - probably due to pre-election tensions - failed. As a result of the dispute, a vast public debate has started in recent months. Some noted personalities have also added their voices to the debate: The Archbishop Dr. Franc Rode has suggested that a mosque, quite differently than the Christian church, represents not merely a religious, but also a social, cultural and political centre. That is why, he argued, the current condition is satisfactory. On the other hand Matjaz Hanzek, Slovenian Human Rights Ombudsman, emphasizes that constitutional rights include the right to a religious building such as a mosque. He interprets the slowness of granting the necessary permissions as a lack of political will. Surveys show that public opinion remains negative. More than seventy percent of Slovenians strongly reject the erection of a mosque anywhere in Slovenia. In articles and internet forums different fears are expressed: that the appearance of the landscape will be spoiled, that the number of immigrants will rise, some people even consider the mosque to be an expression of Islamic expansionism and that a mosque is therefore a threat to security. However no-one characterizes his or her statement as prejudiced. The attitude toward Islam is, according to surveys, reserved rather than prejudiced. The mosque is of course, a purely urban question. But the public debate which has followed shows us the unpleasant face of multiculturalism. A peaceful cohabitation of different cultures and religions is still some way off - at least in Slovenia. Until then, Ljubljana remains one of the few European capitals without a mosque.


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