Purpose-built Mosques in Copenhagen: Visibility, Publicity and Cultural Dispute

Maja De Neergaard, Lasse Kofoed, Kirsten Simonsen


The paper comes out of a case study within the framework of a larger project titled Paradoxical spaces: Encountering the Other in public space. The case is developed around the cross-cultural encounters provoked by the enhanced public visibility of Islam occasioned by the recent construction of purpose-built mosques in Copenhagen. The public visibility is a manifestation of religious differences that cannot be thought independent of the materiality of culture; namely aesthetic forms, dress codes and architectural genres. Cultural encounters are mediated through the materiality, the aesthetic form and the location of the mosques.
In the paper we explore both similarities and differences in the way the material culture of the mosques are planned and received by the public. Today, three purpose-built mosques exist in the Copenhagen area, and they differ in terms of architectural form, age and history, neighbourhood types and planning process. This variation seems to have consequences to the degree and form of cultural dissonance and political dispute. The paper provides a qualitative, comparative exploration of these differences in order to understand the ways in which these mosques are received in public, how this reception varies, and what lessons that can be learned from these meetings as regards possibilities/limitations for, and co-existence in, the city.

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