Islam in the Public Space

Building mosques and setting up sections for Muslims in municipal cemeteries in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

by Martin Klapetek (Author)
©2022 Monographs 230 Pages


This book aims to point out the connection between the operation of prayer houses, the construction of multifunctional mosques and the establishment of sections for Muslims in public cemeteries. The unifying motif is the effort to pass on the identity. During the integration process, Muslims become representatives of otherness in a multicultural environment. This book considers a typology of prayer houses and an analysis of the term 'mosque'. Muslim tombstones are not only understood as an expression of the individuality of the deceased created by their family and loved ones; they are also the result of the expectations of the diverse representatives of the majority within society.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgments
  • Contents
  • List of abbreviations
  • 1 Introduction
  • 1.1 Current state of research and research methodology
  • 1.1.1 Current state of research
  • 1.1.2 Research methodology
  • 2 Muslim minorities in Europe as a representative of otherness
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 A new focus on the concepts of Europe and Islam
  • 2.3 Otherness is no longer distant
  • 2.4 Elements that strengthen identity
  • 2.5 Identity, integration and cultural conflict
  • 2.6 Conclusion
  • 3 Temporary places of prayer and new mosques in Germany, Austria and Switzerland
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.1.1 Islam in Germany, Austria and Switzerland
  • 3.2 Temporary places of prayer or a ‘mosque in the backyard’
  • 3.2.1 Choice of locations in the center and on the outskirts of cities
  • 3.2.2 ‘Mosques in the backyard’ and their variants
  • 3.3 Community structure, spiritual-administrative leadership and multifunctional architecture
  • 3.4 Evolutionary themes in the process of the integration of Muslim communities and their professional criticism
  • 3.5 Case study: Four decades of the construction of mosques by Turkish communities in Germany
  • 3.5.1 The Türkisch-Islamische Union der Anstalt für Religion (DITIB)
  • 3.5.2 Communities with a Turkish cultural background and mosques from 1977 to 2018
  • 3.6 Conclusion
  • 4 Islamic sections in municipal cemeteries in Germany, Austria and Switzerland
  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.1.1 Transport of the deceased to the ‘homeland’
  • 4.1.2 Muslim funerals in Germany, Austria and Switzerland
  • 4.2 Special sections for Muslims in municipal cemeteries
  • 4.2.1 Secular administration of the public cemetery and the delineation of specialized sections
  • 4.2.2 Cemetery plots as a topic for research on Muslim communities
  • 4.3 Case study: Different solutions for Muslim sections in Swiss municipal cemeteries
  • 4.3.1 From a monolithic cemetery to a special section in Geneva
  • 4.3.2 Terraces located on the edges of cemeteries: Zürich and Winterthur
  • 4.3.3 A differently oriented section in the center of the cemetery: Bern
  • 4.4 Types of graves and the normative religious view of the tombstone
  • 4.4.1 Tombstone as an expression of diverse expectations and identification with values
  • 4.4.2 Aftercare and visits to graves
  • 4.5 Case study: Muslim graves from Parkfriedhof Heiligenstock in Frankfurt am Main
  • 4.5.1 Parkfriedhof Heiligenstock in Frankfurt am Main
  • 4.5.2 Cemetery sections 8–11 as evidence of the development of funeral culture
  • 4.6 Conclusion
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Attachment
  • Sources, literature and internet links
  • Sources
  • Literature
  • Internet links
  • List of illustrations
  • Index of proper names and geographical names
  • Series Index

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List of abbreviations


Avusturya Türk Federasyon


Türkisch-Islamische Union für kulturelle und sociale Zusammerarbeit in Österreich






Centrum pro studium demokracie a kultury/Center for the Study of Democracy and Culture


Türkisch-Islamische Union der Anstalt für Religion


eingetragener Verein


European Association for the Study of Religions


Eidgenössische Kommission für Migrationsfragen




Grantová agentura České republiky/the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic


Gemeinschaft Christen und Muslime in der Schweiz


Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland


Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung


Gesellschaft Minderheiten in der Schweiz




der Forschungsgruppe zum Islam in der Schweiz


Islamische Föderation in Berlin


Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich


Islamische Gemeinschaft Milli Görüş e.V.


Islamrat für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland e.V.


Islamische Religionsgemeinschaft Hessen


Koordinierungsrat der Muslime in Deutschland


Loi sur les cimetières K 1 65


Ministerstvo školství, mládeže a tělovýchovy/The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports


Teologická fakulta Jihočeské univerzity v Českých Budějovicích/Faculty of Theology, University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice


Union Islamischer Kulturzentren


Verband der Islamischen Kulturzentren e. V.


Vereinigung islamischer Organisationen Bern


Vereinigung Islamischer Organisationen Zürich


Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland

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1 Introduction

For at least two decades, Islam in Europe has been associated primarily with the activities of extremist groups or with migratory flows. If we want to gain a more comprehensive idea of the everyday lives of the four generations of Muslims living in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, we need to pay attention to other topics. The aim of this book is to point out the possibilities of connection between several research projects. These include the operation of prayer houses through building reconstructions, the construction of multifunctional mosques and the establishment of sections for Muslims in public cemeteries. I came to these topics as a result of my professional and pedagogical interest in the history of Islamic art and funeral culture in general. Above all, field research suggested a possible synthesis of these subjects in the context of Central and Western Europe.

After a methodological introduction, the book is divided into three parts. Chapter 2, ‘Muslim minorities in Europe as a representative of otherness’, is a general introduction to the issues. It considers, among other things, the architecture of mosques and Muslim cemetery monuments in European public space as a topic for religious research. The unifying motif here is the effort to pass on the Muslim identity and strengthen it in the rising generations of followers of Islam. During the integration process, they become representatives of otherness in a multicultural environment that is going through a period of conflict. After this introduction to the basic context of the spread of Islam in these countries, Chapter 3, ‘Temporary places of prayer and new mosques in Germany, Austria and Switzerland’, presents the first key topic. This chapter offers for consideration a typology of prayer houses, an analysis of the term ‘mosque’, and the characteristics of individual generations of new realizations of buildings intended, among other things, for religious purposes. The unifying element here is a critique of the evolutionist approach and an emphasis on diversity of expression. Chapter 4, ‘Islamic sections in municipal cemeteries in Germany, Austria and Switzerland’, introduces the second topic of this book. This relates to the various forms of acculturation of several generations of Muslims into the aforementioned European societies in the field of death and burial. The discussion moves from the general issue of setting up sections for Muslims in public cemeteries to the specific issue of contemporary Muslim tombstones. These monuments are not only an expression of the individuality of the deceased created by their family and loved ones; they are also the result of the expectations of the diverse representatives of the majority within society.

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This book seeks to engage in an international debate on topics related to the lives of Muslims in Europe. It is based on many years of research presented at conferences and in various publications. But it is not just a look outwards, that is, into foreign professional debates: it addresses the Czech reader as well, and offers a stimulus to think about this issue in our own context. I firmly hope that it will contribute to a deepening understanding in both arenas.

1.1 Current state of research and research methodology

1.1.1 Current state of research

If one wants to outline the current state of research into the establishment of prayer houses, the building of new mosques or the designation of special sections for Muslims in municipal cemeteries in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, it is necessary to start from the most general framework and gradually move to specific issues. Thanks to financial resources from several grant projects,1 it was possible to build a representative collection of professional literature. Interested individuals among academics, students and the general public can find publications for further study in the collections of the Josef Petr Ondok Library at the Faculty of Theology of the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice. It should be noted that in most cases these are monographs or anthologies which deal with a variety of topics related to the widely understood institutionalization of Islam and the acculturation of Muslims in some European countries.2 At this point, it is certainly not possible to present in detail the entire production of journal studies devoted to particular problems. The list of literature and other ←14 | 15→information sources at the end of this book will offer a more complete picture of the breadth of current publishing on the mentioned topics. Here, however, it is possible to briefly point out specific areas of contemporary research, the most important professional texts derived from this and the authors connected with these texts.

In the following paragraphs, primary attention is paid to the results of research published in German, which have been deepened by several generations of scholars working in important regional academic workplaces on a long-term basis.3 In addition, it is necessary to follow English-language sources, as they describe a comparable development in surrounding states (for example, Jocelyne Cesari and Sean McLoughlin, Rosemarie van den Breemer and Marcel Maussen, Claudia Venhorst, Nur Yasemin Ural, Thijl Sunier, Craig A. Parsons, Aziz Al-Azmeh and Effie Fokas, Jonas Otterbeck and Jørgen S. Nielsen).4 From these, it is possible to see the studied context objectively; to look at the whole issue from a different point of view; to confirm general trends across Western Europe (Nilüfer Göle)5 or across the West more broadly understood (Adis Duderija and Halim Rane);6 to use comparative methods in order to explore analogous cases ←15 | 16→from other religious systems (Martin Baumann, Emma Mages);7 or, conversely, to capture a seemingly ‘invisible’ key detail (Matthias Kulinna).8

Research on Islam in general, which uses historical, sociological, artistic and anthropological methods, is the primary framework for religion studies.9 The terminology used by experts in the description and analysis of specific situations is based on this. Given the long history of Orientalist research on Islam and the current multidisciplinary interest in this area, there are plenty of basic manuals and overview compendia (for example, works by Reinhard Baumgarten and Ingrid Pfluger-Schindlbeck).10 In the vast majority of cases, these only reflect the normative form of religion in general. However, when researching temporary places of prayer, the construction of mosques as part of multifunctional projects, and specialized cemetery establishments, the researcher works with a variety of information sources. These help to reconstruct elements based on a specific cultural interpretation of Islam. It is thus a lived religion,11 and so these handbooks are only a general framework which is filled with specific content later.

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At this point, one important issue needs to be highlighted. General publications describing the view of normative Islam regarding spaces intended for prayer or the course of funeral ceremonies (for example, the work of Astrid Eisingerich)12 and the permanent appearance of graves usually remain on the surface of the issue or simply repeat already known facts. They are often supplemented by randomly obtained examples from countries with majority Muslim populations which add to the plasticity of the general picture. In my opinion, if attention is paid to normative regulations only, their formative role in everyday life is emphasized more than is necessary. Concrete realizations connected with the long history of a specific cultural interpretation of Islam can, from this point of view, look like mere curiosities. Nevertheless, general publications have an irreplaceable role, not only in the heuristic phase of research, but also during the subsequent stages and in mutual scientific communication on the topics studied.

Research into Islam in Europe is a long-standing activity that first traced the religious and cultural life of historical Muslim communities living on the old continent. In addition to various pieces of evidence regarding the presence of Islam in the area of the Iberian Peninsula, this research also examined the modern history of the Balkan nations and parts of north-eastern Europe (for example the work of Arkadiusz Kołodziejczyk, Andrzej Drozd, Marek M. Dziekan and Tadeusz Majda).13 New topics emerged in connection with the gradually developing modern institutionalization of Islam in the twentieth century in Central and especially Western Europe.14 Thus, current research builds on historical foundations and is reinforced by the acceleration of interest in Muslims living throughout Europe. As we shall see, the key period was between the 1970s and ←17 | 18→the 1990s and the years at the beginning of the new millennium. Traditional topics include the legal framework of democratic societies and their relationship to the activities of religious and ethnic minorities (for example, Mathias Rohe, Richard Potz, Raimund Süess, René Pahud de Mortanges and Florian P. Schrems),15 individual possibilities for the acculturation of four generations of Muslims into mainstream societies (among others Martin Rothgangel, Martin Jäggle and Ednan Aslan, Sophia Tiemann, Bülent Ucar, Berthold Löffler, Nermin Abadan-Unat and Nikola Ornig),16 the institutionalization of organized Islam (Matteo Gianni, Anna Triandafyllidou),17 the veiling of women in the public ←18 | 19→spaces of Western European cities,18 the enforcement of dietary regulations, and the problems associated with mixed-gender learning in state schools.

Regularly updated publishing platforms are now available in the form of information-packed yearbooks (Oliver Scharbrodt, Samim Akgönül, Ahmet Alibašić, Jørgen S. Nielsen and Egdūnas Račius)19 and a specialized Journal of Muslims in Europe, as well as synthesizing works dedicated to the situation in several states (Barbara Gartner).20 In addition to these broadly focused works, there are far more publications reflecting the history (for example, Mustafa Ideli, Susanne Heine, Rüdiger Lohlker and Richard Potz, Hans Mahnig)21 and the current life of Muslims in particular European countries (among others, Brigit Allenbach and Martin Sökefeld, Anja Stichs, Paul Zulehner, Alexander Janda, Mathias Rohe and Ayse Almila Akca)22 or in federal states/cantons (Felix Strebel and Thomas ←19 | 20→Widmer, Ernst Fürlinger, Zeina Elcheikh).23 The persistent disparity between the large number of publications on the situation in Germany and the paucity of work on Austria and Switzerland necessitates the researcher acquiring a more in-depth overview of individual national productions. This will augment the insufficient and often only superficial reflection upon developments taking place simultaneously in several states.

At this point, it is necessary to draw attention to the publication disproportion which, in other contexts, repeats the above-described relationship between normative and lived religion. For many reasons, professional interest is directed primarily at organized Islam in Europe. In the context of recent works, I would like to mention a very interesting dissertation by Raida Chbib.24 This focus is usually a specific choice related to the thematic preferences of the particular researcher, the methods used and the datasets available. However, a false picture may emerge that presents organizations as the main representatives of Muslims living on the old continent. A classic example is the long-term interest in the political and missionary activities of various groups advocating Salafism. Leading experts in this field include Nina Wiedl, Dirk Baehr, Rauf Ceylan and Michael Kiefer.25 However, most believers consider Islam to be a cultural framework for their (private) life in a non-Muslim society. They do not usually become involved in the religious activities offered by local associations, representatives of ←20 | 21→provincial/cantonal groupings or organizations with nationwide activities (Tuula Sakaranaho, Nadia Jeldtoft and again Jørgen S. Nielsen).26 The self-reflective sociology of religion and religion studies offers examples from other areas of religious life in Europe that reveal a similar process.27

If we look at this disjunction in terms of establishing places of prayer, special sections for Muslims in communal cemeteries and the specifics of Islamic funeral rites, several interesting facts appear. Most publications mention the appearance of the exteriors and interiors of places of prayer as a sub-theme related to the history of Islamic art and architecture (Gaston Migeon and Henri Saladin, or Lorenz Korn).28 This is based on a historical framework built on a gradual enumeration of consecutive periods, defined by the government of a particular dynasty and the development of state units within geographical specifics. Criticism of this long-established evolutionist view appears rarely. It captures the theme of the construction of several generations of mosques in Western Europe through a gradual departure from traditional architectural forms and a final shift towards a modernist conception of the building.29 Current output either innovates this approach (Christian Welzbacher, Sabine Kraft)30 or seeks to successfully argue with it (Erich R. Roose, Ergün Erkoçu and Cihan Buğdacı),31 ←21 | 22→even within the theoretical framework of orientalism discussed in postcolonial studies (Nebahat Avcıoğlu).32


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (September)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 230 pp., 20 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Martin Klapetek (Author)

Martin Klapetek is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice. His research interests include Islam in Europe, modern sacral architecture and funeral culture.


Title: Islam in the Public Space
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232 pages