February 13, 2013 - 13:32 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Muslim plans to convert a former Lutheran church in the city of Hamburg into a mosque is generating controversy across Germany, according to gatestoneinstitute.org.
From Berlin to Dortmund to Mönchengladbach, the gradual proliferation of mosques housed in former churches reflects the rise of Islam as the fastest growing religion in Germany. In the most recent case, the church would be the first converted into a mosque in the second-largest city in Germany.
The latest dust-up involves the former Kapernaumkirche (Capernaum Church), located in the Horn district in downtown Hamburg. The church, a cultural heritage site, was abandoned in 2002 for financial reasons due to declining membership.
The building and an adjacent 44 meter (144 foot) tower/steeple as well as the surrounding land was sold in December 2012 to the Al-Nour Islamic Center, which has approximately 600 members, mainly made up of Arab Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa.
The church is currently undergoing renovations at a cost of one million euros ($1.4 million) and is scheduled to be reopened as a mosque on October 3, the Day of German Unity, a public holiday commemorating the anniversary of German reunification in 1990. Muslims in Germany have also claimed October 3 as Open Mosque Day, a day when non-Muslims are allowed to visit mosques.
In Germany as a whole, more than 400 Roman Catholic churches and more than 100 Protestant churches have been closed since 2000, according to one estimate. At least 277 Protestant churches have been either sold or demolished since 1990, according to the Evangelical Church in Germany. Another 700 Roman Catholic churches are slated to be closed over the next several years.
By contrast, there are now more than 200 purpose-built mosques (including more than 40 so-called mega-mosques which can accommodate 1,000 or more worshippers), 2,600 Muslim prayer halls and a countless number of unofficial mosques in Germany, where the Muslim population has jumped from around 500,000 in the early 1980s to more than four million today. Another 128 mosques are currently under construction, according to the Zentralinstitut Islam-Archiv, a Muslim organization based in Germany.