Cologne's city council has approved building plans for what is slated to be Germany's largest mosque. Politicians hope the structure's glass design and bilingual program will help integrate the Islamic community.
The city of Cologne has high hopes for the new mosque's contribution to integration
Cologne's Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Greens, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Left Party all voted for the construction of the mosque, which will include two minarets that stretch 55 meters (180 feet) into the sky, the Associated Press reported.
Mayor Fritz Schramma was the only Christian Democratic Union (CDU) member to approve the plans. The rest of his party has criticized the mosque's design as being "too imposing."
Builders from the Governing Body of the Turkish-Islamic Union (DiTiB) will construct the structure with a 37-meter high dome in the city district of Ehrenfeld.
Hot topic of debate
Muslim integration in Germany is a controversial topic
The mosque has been the subject of great controversy since its early design phase. German author and Holocaust survivor Ralph Giordano has called it "a power demonstration of Islam," while others view the modern construction as a step towards eventual harmony between Muslims and Germans.
Right-of-center German groups had campaigned against the mosque. They charged that it would bring a "foreign" touch to a city skyline dominated by Cologne's 11th-century Catholic cathedral.
The DiTiB and the city have agreed upon the mosque's pivotal role in achieving integration and believe that offering a German program including language lessons is a critical step.
Schramma added that sermons delivered within the mosque would be translated.
"We want to know what is being done at the mosque, what is being said, preached and taught," he says.
Replacing barriers with transparency
Mehmet Günet, attorney for the DiTiB thinks the building's glass designs will help break the barrier between the city's Muslims and non-Muslims.
Cologne could be the scene of a rowdy demonstration in September
"We want to have a transparent mosque," he said. "And not just from an architectural standpoint. We want it to be transparent in that everyone can see what goes on in the mosque."
Muslim migrant workers have been praying in makeshift mosques in Germany for roughly 40 years. There are now reportedly 2,000 of such structures in Germany, as well as 165 traditional mosques.
Right-wing leaders and extremists from all over Europe are planning on meeting Sept. 19 in Cologne to protest against the mosque. Police are expecting about 40,000 demonstrators, according to the dpa news agency.