Muslims Begin Wester Mosque Construction without Permit
THE HAGUE, 18/10/08 – Turkish mosque organisation Milli Gorus has started construction of the controversial Wester mosque in Amsterdam without permission. About 100 Muslims symbolically drove the first pile into the ground.
Milli Gorus does not have the necessary documentation for the construction. The Turkish organisation is involved in a long-running dispute about this with government organisation Stadgenoot. This is the Amsterdam housing corporation (formerly called Het Oosten) which co-financed and developed the project.
Stadgenoot does not believe the mosque will be built quickly. “We have not understood Milli Gorus any more for some time. They just engage in mud-slinging, and now they say all of a sudden that they are beginning construction, though this is absolutely not allowed. I think that they want to make a symbolic statement,” said a spokesman.
There has been wrangling over the mosque for years. This began shortly after a symbolic first brick was laid by the then Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner. He called the project a “symbol of integration” – but this statement rapidly turned out to be untenable.
Milli Gorus withdrew from a contract in which it was specified that the mosque would proclaim a moderate Islamic message. Subsequently, various media reported that the leadership of the present, smaller mosque that wants to base itself in the Wester mosque was perpetrating fraud running into millions with fictitious Islamic investment funds. The Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) however found no evidence.
Still, Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen could not do otherwise than halt the construction. Stadgenoot has since withdrawn from the mosque project and is only building the offices and housing that were part of the project – not the mosque.
Because a new, unknown investor was found, construction can after all begin, according to Milli Gorus. It say Stadgenoot is withholding documents that make the construction legally impossible.
But Stadgenoot says these documents do not exist at all. “Milli Gorus simply does not have its affairs in order, and is trying to blame this on us.” The Turkish organisation is however threatening a court case “if Stadgenoot does not hand over the documents.”
The mosque is intended to be one of the biggest in Europe. The style is Ottoman, with high minarets and a large central dome. Mayor Cohen has repeatedly said he hopes the mosque can eventually be built after all.