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  • January 2017 : A new mosque in Tallinn ?

Already for years, there have been rumors and a public discussion about the erection of a new mosque in Tallinn – the capital of Estonia. Until now, local Muslims have gathered in an Islamic Center, which also functioned as a mosque. In 2015, the head Imam of local Muslim community, Ildar Muhhamedšin, declared publicly that a mosque would help better integration of Muslims and refugees in the Estonian society. After this, a group of Muslims asked for financial support from the Republic of Estonia and from the city of Tallinn to build a new mosque. However, as religious associations are self-governed, and the state as well as municipalities do not erect sacred buildings in Estonia, this application was turned down. Some members of the Estonian Islamic community have said that taking into account the number of Estonian Muslims, which is relatively small (in 2011 census it was little more than 1500), there is actually no need for a new mosque and that the Islamic Center would do just fine.
This happens at the same time as an emerging conflict within the Estonian Muslim community. The tension is mostly caused by the allegedly illegal financial actions of Muhhamedšin in handling the finances of Estonian Islamic community. It has divided the community. A criminal investigation is going on. In August 2016, it was rumored in Estonian press that Muhhamedšin wanted to buy land in Kadriorg – a region in Tallinn, where the residence of the President of the Republic of Estonia is located, and build a mosque there. Muhhamedšin denied later these claims, emphasizing nevertheless that there was a need for a new mosque, because of a division in the Estonian Muslim community. He claimed that the new converts and residents in Estonia had taken over the Estonian Islamic Center, and, therefore, the old community was seeking to build a new mosque. In reality, the division within the community is not so clearly based on the identity of ‘new’ and ‘old’ members ; it is more between those who support Muhhamedšin and those who criticize him.
In October 2016, during a visit to the Republic of Estonia, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu confirmed that Turkey was ready to financially support the erection of a new mosque to Estonia, when an agreement with Estonian authorities would be reached. The minister claimed that the representatives of moderate Islam would need to become more active, because otherwise terrorists and extremists would prevail. The Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia Taavi Rõivas commented on the statement, saying that he had no knowledge that the Islamic community in Estonia wanted a new mosque.
The news given by Turkey’s foreign minister came just a few months after Turkish authorities had confirmed that there was no plan to support the erection of a new mosque to Estonia. Soon after the visit of the Turkish Foreign Minister, Estonian media reported that Turkish officials visited Estonia with the aim to investigate the possibilities for the building of a new mosque.
Conservative politicians are the most opposed to the erection of a new mosque. For example, MP Martin Helme (Conservative People’s Party) has spoken against it, saying that it is a symbol of cultural and religious superiority. A call to oppose the erection of a new mosque via an online petition was made in October 2016. By the beginning of 2017, more than 3,500 people have signed the petition.

Source in English :
Ringo Ringvee, "Estonia", in Oliver Scharbrodt (ed.), Yearbook of Muslims in Europe, vol. 8., Brill, 2017, pp. 221-238.

Sources in Estonian :
- in Postimees : "Mufti : mošee aitaks põgenikke Eesti ühiskonda integreerida", "Türgi on valmis rajama eestlaste nõusolekul Eestisse mošee", "Rõivas : palvemaja rajamiseks ei pea riigilt luba küsima", "Peaimaam : Kadriorgu pole plaanis mošeed rajada",
- in Petitsioon : "Oleme vastu mošee ehitamisele Tallinna või mujale Eestisse !",
- in Epl.delfi : "Mošee on kultuurilise vallutuse sümbol", "Eesti muslimite imaam sättis end elama koguduse rahaga ostetud külaliskorterisse".

D 2 février 2017    APriit Rohtmets

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