Netherlands: Mosque to be put up for auction
I think there was a similar case in Norway a while back.
For the first time in Dutch history, a house of prayer is being put up for auction because of a financial conflict. The Amsterdam municipality and the housing association Stadgenoot want back the money they invested in the never built Wester mosque in Amsterdam. The flourishing Rahman mosque in Amersfoot is left to face the music.
The Amersfoot Rahman mosque might be put up for auction. If the auction goes through it will be the first time that a functioning house of prayer will be forced to be sold off publicly.
"Soon the auction ads will appear in the paper," writes the Amersfoot public notary who is organizing the sale.
Mustafa Demir first said he knows nothing about it, but later the Schuilenburg neighborhood mosque secretary seemed to be aware of the announced sale: "It's a very sensitive issue. We prefer to keep busy this week with the iftar meals. It's still Ramadan."
The reason for the approaching sale is a financial conflict which has been dragging on between the Amsterdam housing association Stadgenoot (formerly Het Oosten) and the Manderen investment firm. Stadgenoot says Manderen, which is linked to the Turkish mosque association Milli Görüs owes them 6 million euros.
Earlier Manderen announced it paid off its obligations. But the housing association contents that and some time ago confiscated some of Manderen's bank accounts and properties. One of these properties is a building in the Amersfoot Juliëttestraat: the Rahman mosque.
In order to emphasize its demands, the housing associations announced it will auction off the mosque on October 22.
According to Fatih Dag of Manderen, the outstanding debt, 4.5 million euro, has already been collected by the court, but it hasn't transferred the money over to the housing association since there are other properties of Manderen which have been confiscated. The other creditor, according to a court verdict from June, is the Amsterdam municipality, which seized 7.6 million euro's worth.
The court decided to permit the forced sale of the Amersfoot building - the mosque.
According to lawyer Bram Craemer of housing association Stadgenoor, the court had already earlier allowed to auction off the building, but they tried to come up with a preferable solution for the building's users and to have Mandaren declare bankruptcy. Bringing in a trustee would have helped the mosque goers, says craemer, but they didn't want to cooperate with that.
Secretary Demir from the Rahman mosque did not wan to say why. "The situation is already complex enough".
Stadgenoot now intends to collects its debts from Manderen by foreclosure sale. This is unique, says Mickey Bosschert of consulting firm Reliplan, which deals with rezoning churches. Conflicts are not exceptional, but he says that he doesn't know of any that had gotten to foreclosure. What's happening now in Amersfoort has never happened before, it should be organized properly.
The threat of a sale is a result of an affair which has been going on for a while in the Dutch capital. The housing association and Manderen were going to build a complex together which was planned to include a big mosque. The first plans date from 1994. In 2000 there was an agreement, in 2006 Minister Donner laid the first stone. But since then the Wester mosque had not advanced further. The cooperation between Manderen and Stadgenoot has, after a promising start, gotten so bad, that those involved only meet each other in court. Manderen got the worst of it.
After a takeover of the Milli Görüs board in 2006, where the progressive powers were forced out, the Wester mosque forfeited a lot of good will. The Amsterdam municipality, which was originally enthusiastic about the mosque from which 'Western Islam' would arise, washed off its hands from the project which had cost millions.
Is there a market for a mosque which would be sold by foreclosure? Bosschert of Reliplan says that yes. According to her the zoning of the building can be changed, but that is probably not even needed. "There is enormous demand for it. Many Muslim groups are waiting to snap up a mosque. But here mediation is absolutely necessary".
Ahmet Duran, chairman fo the Milli Görüs federation North Netherlands, says that his umbrella organization will think about buying the building.
Source: Trouw (Dutch)
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