CR: Community celebrates first mosque's 10th anniversary

Czech Muslims are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first mosque ever built in the Czech Republic which opened in 1998 in the city of Brno. While ten years ago, the Islamic Foundation in Brno had to face protests and their mosque had to do without a minaret, today the community is thriving and even planning to build a new, greater mosque in the Moravian capital.

On July 2 1998, the first mosque in the Czech Republic and the rest of central Europe opened in the Moravian city of Brno. Today, ten years later, the local Muslim community is celebrating the occasion in Brno's central square Náměstí Svobody. Muneeb Hassan Alrawi is the head of the Islamic Foundation in Brno and one of the mosque's founders.

"We are celebrating ten years of the Brno mosque but we consider it a success of the society, of the people in the Czech Republic. Two different entities agreeing on a common principle of co-existence is definitely a success. Today, we are celebrating with a culture event at Náměstí Svobody square in Brno where we'll hand out 3,653 roses that represent the number of days the mosque has been open."
But back then, the relations between the Muslims and Czechs were everything but a bed of roses. Some locals protested the idea of having a mosque in their neighbourhood and tried to bar the Muslim community's efforts by signing petitions. Mr Hassan says relations are much better now.

"The situation has improved substantially. I think people soon found out that they didn't have to be afraid of the people who come to the mosque. We even got in touch with some of the organizers of the petitions, and we get on really well. We have always believed that behind the protests was a fear of the unknown. I think it's natural and we never blamed anyone. Today things look very good."

Soon after the first mosque opened in Brno, another one followed in Prague. And the first Czech mosque in Brno is no longer big enough to accommodate Brno's growing Muslim community which currently has some 800 members, both Czechs and foreigners. The Islamic Foundation has therefore come up with another ambitious plan.

"We are trying to build a new, bigger mosque, because the current mosque has become too small. We have many activities both for our community, for Muslims, and for the public. The current mosque is too small � I think that no such small mosque has ever attracted so much attention. But that's because it was the first mosque in the Czech Republic and in Central Europe."

Source: Radio Prague (English)

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