Participatory planning around mosque building in Marxloh-Duisburg

German’s largest mosque has been built in Marxloh-Duisburg without conflict on account of a consciously pursued strategy of transparency and participation of representatives of various local stakeholders and residents.

Project start date: 2004
Project end date: 2008
Covering city: Duisburg, Germany

Summary

While some other mosque buildings projects resulted in fierce local campaigns against the proposed buildings - for instance the construction of the mosque in Colgne-Ehrenfeld - this was not the case with the construction of the Merkez mosque in Marxloh, Duisburg (Germany). This was due to the collaborative way in which it was planned: a transparent information policy, involvement of the neighbourhood and German politicians, church and community leaders were invited to advice on the project.

Issue

Building mosques in Germany – as in other European countries – often provoke substantial opposition. Generally, protest starts with complaints about the locations, heights of the minarets and traffic congestion. Subsequently, the issue moves to the underlying fears about the ideological influences promoted by the organisations financing the mosque and about the mosque as symbol of the presence of the Islam.

The context: Marxloh is a working class district in Duisburg with a high proportion of immigrants from Turkey; the district is marked by an accumulation of problems. All kinds of urban renewal projects have been implemented since the mid-1980s. In recent years, the situation is getting better, thanks to the efforts of ethnic entrepreneurs and city marketing. The Mains Street, that hosts many Turkish bridal fashion stores, has been renamed in “Germany’s most romantic street’, supported by a media campaign.

Approach
  • A transparent and open information policy from the outset, including transparent funding.
  • An advisory board with representatives from political parties, churches, local associations, neighbours and business people.
  • Meetings for the neighbourhood where critical questions could be asked.
  • The inclusion of a community centre in the building, open to all.


The mosque project became one of the projects undertaken by an urban development agency, because of the subsidies of North Rhine-Westphalia and the EU for the community centre.

City marketing contributed to bringing the community together around the new mosque. At the time of the opening of the mosque, there was a media campaign with yellow streets-signs with the slogan; “Made in Marxloh” (referring to the bridal fashion stores on main street as well) and “Welcome to Marxloh”.


Results
  • The mosque planning and construction is considered a positive example for mosque building. Some even called it “the miracle of Marxloh”.
  • This positive image adds to other images of the district, including a city marketing campaign to reframe the image of the district from ‘ghetto’ to a positive role model (with ‘Germany’s most romantic street’).
  • Transparency, effective communication, consultation (of non-Muslims and representatives of local organisations) and discussion - not shying away from discussions - from the outset are important success factors.

Resources used
  • Public funding for the interfaith and intercultural community centre (subsidies of North-Rhine Westphalia and the EU for ‘districts in special need of renewal). 
  • The mosque was funded by DİTİB, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affair – the owner of the mosque – and by donations. The Duisburg Merkez mosque is associated with the DİTİB, the umbrella organisation of many (800) mosques in Germany.

Beneficiaries

The Muslim community in Duisburg/Marxloh, the Marxloh district and the city of Duisburg (positive image).


EU involvement

Funding of the EU for the community centre in the building (and of North Rhine-Westphalia) within the framework of a programme called ‘Districts in special need of renewal’.


Organisation

For more information visit the mosque website: http://www.ditib-du.de/