Amsterdam: Mecca of the Polder

The Slotervaart neighborhood of Amsterdam will get two new mosques this year. One, expected to open in mid-May, is a mosque aimed at youth, where sermons will be given in Dutch. This is the first mosque in the Netherlands where imams would preach in Dutch for Dutch born Muslims. According to founder Mohammed Cheppih (31), the so-called "polder" (ie, Dutch) mosque, officially called "Mecca of the Polder" will enable everybody to feel at home, believers and non-believers. Visitors, imams and administration will reflect Dutch society.

Cheppih expects Muslim youth of Moroccan, Turkish, Somali, Surinamese and Pakistani background from all over the country to come to the mosque. He says there there are now hundreds of Islam in lessons in Dutch given all across the country. Men and women will be able pray together, though women could also pray in a separate space if they so wish. Cheppih says that at least four imams of different cultural background will conduct the sermons, and will talk about Islam from different angles.

The mosque administration operated out of the Academica Islamica in Rotterdam and had rented space in an office building from residence corporation De Alliantie. The mosque will be situated on the second floor, and the rest will be rented out to small business, and so pay for most of the costs. Cheppih hopes to get the rest from fund donations.

The mosque administration includes a non-Muslims, Marloes Kuijer (29). The mosque will be independent at it will get no subsidies from the Dutch government or from abroad. Kuijer works for Samenwerking Arabische Jongeren in Rotterdam (Arab Youth Cooperation) and hopes the mosque will play a part in the integration debate.

Cheppih was known in the past as a radical Muslim but says he has since rejected his former role in the Arab European League.

He says he had dreamed of a 'model mosque' since 2006, but that since they got no response to their request from the Rotterdam municipality, they left for Amsterdam. The architectural plans for the mosque, created by two young Muslim architects, fits into Dutch architecture, without minarets.

Sources: Trouw, Volkskrant, Parool (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Combating radicalism with radicals

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