Muslim Sect Given Go-ahead To Build Mosque In East Berlin

Berlin, Germany - Authorities have given the go-ahead for the first ever mosque to be built in the former East Berlin, despite objections from local residents.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim community confirmed on Tuesday that it had received permission to erect the two-storey building and a 12-metre-tall minaret on a former industrial site in the suburb of Heinersdorf.

"We will commence building at the beginning of 2007," said Abdul Basit Tariq, chairman of the sect's Berlin branch. Construction was expected to be completed by the end of next year or early 2008, he added.

Tariq said the mosque was being financed by the sect's women's organization and would bear the name Khadidja, after the first wife of the Prophet Muhammed.

The Muslim group said it had been looking to build a new mosque because it had outgrown its present community centre in the suburb of Reinickendorf.

Residents of Heinersdorf have staged a series of protests against the planned mosque, some of which were attended by members of the far right National Democratic Party (NPD).

The Ahmadiyya community was founded at the end of the 19th century in what was then British India. It claims to represent the latter day renaissance of Islam.

The sect, which is classed as peaceful by the German domestic intelligence service, operates more than a dozen mosques in Germany.