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news 29 Dec 17

Call for Campus Mosque Causes Storm in Kosovo

The deputy mayor of Pristina's call to build a mosque on the campus of Pristina University has sparked adverse reactions in Kosovo, while the municipality says it does not back the idea.

Die Morina
Selim Pacolli, the deputy mayor of Pristina | Photo: Atdhe Mulla

The newly elected deputy mayor of Pristina, Selim Pacolli, from the Alliance New Kosovo party, has sparked a row after telling a TV station on Wednesday that he supported building a mosque on the campus of Pristina University, if the university was relocated.

“When the university campus is relocated to the countryside, there will be a free area and in this area we could build a cult object for the Islamic community, just as we now also have a cathedral [close to the campus],” Pacolli stated.

The deputy mayor of the city, which is governed by the Vetevendosje party, added that it would be “a super-modern project with 20 domes”.

However, Municipality of Pristina told BIRN that the agreed location for the city's new central mosque is the Dardania district, as was previously planned, not on the university campus.

The Kosovo capital has long argurged over whether and where it should build a new main mosque for the city's overwhelmingly Muslim population.

The Islamic Community of Kosovo, BIK, together with former senior state officials, placed the cornerstone of the new Central Mosque back in 2012 in the Dardania district.

The BIK has explained all the subsequent delays on various procedures, which held matters up, until they finally decided which project they wished to implement.

As the project got close to its start, however, it was opposed also by a number of political parties and civil society groups, declaring it out of harmony with surrounding area.

According to these objectors, the project did not match the Dardania neighbourhood's Settlement Plan.

“The BIK will soon start the construction of the mosque in Dardania,” the spokesperson of BIK told BIRN, adding that urban planning issues had been resolved.

Some journalists meanwhile have denounced the deputy mayor in no uncertain terms.

Enver Robelli, a journalist wrote an opinion column, saying that “it would not be a surprise that an ignorant man – who since yesterday was elected deputy mayor of Pristina thanks to dirty compromises with Vetevendosje – requires the demolition of University facilities to make space for mosques, Islamic centres, and 70 or 700 domes”.

A student organization, “Student Democracy”, also issued a hostile statement on Thursday, expressing concern about an alleged plan of the deputy mayor “to turn the university campus into an Islamic centre”.

The student protesters said they wished to remind him “that Serbia during the time of the occupation [in the 1980s]... violently tried to build an Orthodox Church at the University Campus but was never able to put it to use – nor can you, because the UP is a temple of knowledge and not the temple of religious objects.”

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