Al Jazeera World

The Mosque of West Amsterdam

The mosque that has tested both the resilience of the Turkish community and multiculturalism in the Netherlands.

Film-maker: Ayfer Ergun

For the past 16 years, Huseyin Gunduz has dreamt of building a mosque in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam.

Having had to perform congregational prayers in factories, community centres and people’s basementshe and his committee have spent years campaigning and fundraising to build a place of worship and make their dream – and that of their whole community – a reality.

In The Mosque of West Amsterdam, we follow Huseyin as work – to the exterior at least – finally nears completion on the impressive mosque.

“The thought of the outcome and success leaves me speechless,” he says. “I believe we’ll be rewarded in the afterlife for our contribution and efforts.”

Known locally as Westermoskee, the project – modelled on Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia – was in urgent need of funds to be completed.

Amsterdam’s first grand mosque

From its conception in the early 1990s to the present day, the whole project has sometimes been accompanied by controversy, as well as political and financial difficulties.

Planning problems, alleged corruption scandals, local residential opposition and anti-Islamic sentiment have, in turns, affected the project, at one point virtually halting development for nearly a decade.

The extreme-right leader Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party shows a degree of support in Dutch opinion polls, is one of the most outspoken criticsstirring up local opposition.

This film looks at how Huseyin and his committee try to raise the capital necessary for continued construction, at the same time as trying to bridge relations with residents, some of whom have serious reservations about the mosque.