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It's Still Really Hard to Build a Mosque in Europe

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Like a prayer?


European governments' considerable image problems can now add the unfortunate case of Lleida, an agricultural town in Catalonia, Spain, which has approved building a brothel at a site where just a year ago it refused to allow construction of a mosque.

The planned house of ill repute is to be a modest affair, just two bedrooms attached to a bar and disco. The problem is, a congregation seeking a mosque permit a few blocks away had been told a year ago that the area was zoned "industrial." One could argue the issue comes down to how you define "industry" (or at least "Friday night services"—we could go on). But the whole flap looks bad in a region that's already having trouble convincing the world of its seriousness.

The case is just the latest in a string of incidents suggesting that Europe is not a great place to be a Muslim congregation. A few years back, another town in Catalonia, Ripoll, made headlines after neighbors tried to block establishment of a prayer room in an existing storefront, claiming the adjacent street was too narrow.

Elsewhere, Athens, Greece—the national capitol—doesn't have a single mosque. In 2009, Switzerland, establishing a rare law designed to focus on a specific architectural feature, banned minarets nationally.

A report by the Initiative on Religion and Democracy in Europe, citing 2009 statistics (pdf) claimed Europe has 6,000 mosques. A third were in one just country, however: France.