Anti-mosque feelings growing, analyst says

July 17, 2008 at 11:31 AM

ZURICH, Switzerland, July 17 (UPI) -- The building of mosques in European countries is being met with a backlash, reflecting growing anti-Muslim sentiment, analysts say.

Some analysts call the conflicts about mosques on European soil an expression of a growing fear that Muslims don't accept Western values, aren't assimilating and pose a security threat, USA Today reported Thursday.

"It's a visible symbol of anti-Muslim feelings in Europe," says Daniele Joly, director of the Center for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick in Britain. "It's part of an Islamophobia. Europeans feel threatened."

The latest dispute is in Switzerland, which is planning a nationwide referendum to ban minarets on mosques, the newspaper reported. Italy's interior minister earlier in July vowed to close a controversial mosque in Milan.

An estimated 18 million Muslims live among Western Europe's predominantly Christian population of 400 million, Joly says.

Sakib Halilovic, an imam in Zurich, says Switzerland's referendum to ban minarets "plays into the hands" of Muslim extremists by limiting what a mosque can look like and denying them a place to worship.

"It will boost radical positions within the Muslim society in Switzerland," Halilovic told the Swiss Broadcasting Corp.

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