Will Budapest get its first “mega” mosque?

For the past several weeks, the story of a somewhat mysterious video produced by a Turkish foundation called Türkiye Diyanet surfaced on and off in the Hungarian press, suggesting that there were plans to erect a mega mosque, with four minarets, a restaurant and a hotel in the Kőbánya suburb of Budapest. Based on the released drawings and the video, the new mosque planned for the Hungarian capital bears a close resemblance to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) in Istanbul. While the precise location of the proposed mosque in Budapest has yet to be determined (it may not be in the Kőbánya suburb), it does seem likely that the Orbán government will not oppose such a move and that Hungary’s Muslim community, supported by the Turkish government, is set on erecting a centre  that will certainly have an impact on the city’s architectural and  cultural landscape.

The drawings depicting a proposed mega mosque and Islamic Centre in Budapest.

The drawings depicting a proposed mega mosque and Islamic Centre in Budapest.

It’s worth noting that at the moment, Budapest does not have a single active mosque. Instead, the Hungarian capital’s Muslim community (which numbers 2,524 according to official statistics released in 2011, and which tend to underestimate these numbers), meets in two prayer rooms for Friday prayers, as well as in private apartments. János Káldos, a professor at Pázmány Péter Catholic University (PPKE), converted to Islam 10 years ago, and according to his estimates, there are at least 15,000 Muslims in Hungary, but only around 4,000 actually practice their faith. Most of those who practice their religion are Sunni.

“It is effectively impossible to build a mosque in Hungary. We have tried several times, and have never succeeded. Our efforts sometimes ended really badly. Sometimes local protests by residents, and on other occasions political strong-arming stopped us from building a mosque,” said Mr. Kaldos in an interview with the conservative Mandiner site.

But this may soon change. Earlier this month, journalists asked Prime Minister Viktor Orbán what he thought of the possibility of a grandiose mosque being built in Budapest. “There are many religious foreign students in Hungary, who pay tuition here. Yet they don’t have a space to practice their faith. These students pay significant amounts in fees and there are some towns in Hungary, where local universities are effectively supported by tuition fees paid by students from the Arab world,” remarked the prime minister. He then added that authorities will have to begin discussing the proposed mosque for Budapest.

This relative openness to the construction of a mosque by the national Fidesz government (I strongly suspect that local Fidesz mayors and councils will be less enthusiastic) may be in connection with the government’s attempts at building stronger economic and political ties with countries like Turkey.

That having been said, Budapest’s Fidesz mayor, István Tarlós, said that so far no progress has been made on finding a location in the capital that would be acceptable to both the Turkish negotiators and to the Hungarians, in terms of constructing a mega mosque and Islamic cultural centre. Based on information obtained by the Magyar Nemzet daily, the Turkish government (and specifically the Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs) is willing to finance  the entire project, from the purchase of land in Budapest, to the construction of the buildings.

6 Comments

  1. Eleftheria says:

    It would be interesting, that which Fidesz affiliated contruction firm will get the building contract and what kind of real estate speculations are underway… By the way the far-right, fascist, xenophobic Orban-regime that outrageously incites against the weakest, most miserable refugees ( as lacking even the smallest degree of human decency ), is surely not as hostile to any wealthy foreign individual or group, no matter how shadowy they are , how unclear the origin of their wealth is… like for instance the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated far-right/fascistic Erdogan regime and groups affiliated with it … One the day we might witness people waving the falgs of “Daesh” in Budapest, while declaring the “Vilayet of Budapest” ( it would be surely impresive to film it on the Castle Hill in Buda somewhere near Sándor Palace , after all it is a spectacular city to be proud of… ) that would be analogue with the 16th-17th century Ottoman Vilayet of Buda ( Daesh seems to claim all territories once held by Ottoman Turkey and beyond )… At least after being the serfs of Hitler’s Germany, Hungarians could continue that with the Nazis of this century … Good job…

  2. Like the issue of doping by the Hungarian swimmer, the relevance of the possible Turkish mosque escapes me.

  3. Perhaps the Turks could complete the promised restorations at the Tomb of Gul Baba in Buda before building the mosque.

  4. Géza Hegedüs says:

    A big mistake if Orbán and friends allow this to happen, just for financial gain. So much about their christian masks.

    Especially Turkish muslim influence must be banned. Building a mosque in a non muslim/christian country has a real sybolic meaning for muslims. It is not an innocent move by the muslim Turkish government.

    If those foreign students want prayer rooms and mosques, let them move to Western Europe.

    As for the few muslims in Hungary as mentioned in the article. Not one inch of room to demand all kind of privelages like their “brothers” do in Western Europe step by step.

    Hungary does not need something like this to be built as it does not need islam!

  5. Liz Aucoin says:

    Personally I think that they are just testing to see if the Fidesz propaganda machine is working properly. Kind of like they did after Merkel’s visit. They just want to see if they can get away with spreading misinformation and not be called on it. Of course a couple of days later the lies were uncovered the last time. How many Hungarians caught the corrections? (if there were any) and how many Hungarians still believe what was originally written? This time, I think they are testing the waters to see who will be up in arms about a giant Mosque going up in BP. If they get large protest against it, they can also use that in their argument against immigration and refugees, by stating that many Hungarians support Fidesz views on that subject. Orban doesn’t care about any muslim students in Hungary, that was one of the things that made me very suspicious of this news. Another was the fact that he talks about how letting muslims immigrate to Hungary they would not be able to integrate with Hungarian culture, but now they want to build a mega mosque? This “news” is very fishy indeed.

  6. It’s not about the mosque it’s about the government and Orban.

    Orban will permit and support the mosque project or any other ones if he is payed a decent bribe for that.
    Then again, he will give order to get the mosque blown next day if he gets a bigger bribe for that and then will find a scapegoat to accuse in no time and will use the whole thing as a good pretense to advance with his own lunatic nightmares while going on entertaining his hypnotized fans at home and the EU big boys, who are so soft in the middle, with his magical stories and suggestive psychotic performances.

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