Backlash growing over mosque construction in Daegu
A conflict is deepening over the construction of a two-story mosque in a residential district of Daegu, the nation's third-largest city located in the southeastern region of the country.
Some residents, worried that the mosque would lead to stronger Islamic influence in the area, have been strongly opposing the construction, whereas the Islamic community and civic groups supporting it believe the mosque should be built to guarantee the freedom of religion.
The construction of the place of worship in Daehyeon-dong, Buk District, was launched in December 2020 by the local Islamic community, mainly consisting of international students studying at Kyungpook National University in Daegu. They received a construction permit from the local district office in September of that year.
But it was met with heavy backlash among some residents and members of conservative Protestant groups in the area. They staged rallies in front of the construction site and filed multiple petitions with the district office calling for a halt to the construction, citing loud noise and infringement of property rights.
In February, the district authorities issued an administrative order to the building owner to halt the construction. It has been delayed indefinitely ever since, while the conflict between the two sides has been left unresolved.
On Sept. 3, an internet user claiming to be a resident of Buk District posted a petition on the Cheong Wa Dae website, urging the government to "save" the country from Islamic influence.
"I've been fighting for over eight months to stop the construction of the mosque. I've seen many foreign residents in this area while living here for decades, but I've never seen foreigners form a community of their own like they (Muslims) do. I sometimes feel threatened seeing them walking in groups on the street," the petition read.
"Now that they're even buying houses in the area, it's a matter of time until our district becomes Muslim. I don't understand why they are claiming freedom of religion here, when they come from countries where religions other than Islam are oppressed and human rights are often violated."
The writer demanded the government step in, saying, "The government should help us build a safer country for our children." The petition had garnered over 50,000 signatures as of 2 p.m., Monday.
On the other hand, the Islamic community and civic groups which support the construction of the mosque claim that freedom of religion should be guaranteed. They view the district office's administrative order to suspend the construction as discriminative.
The Daegu branch of the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy insisted that the local government should retract its "discriminatory policy" and allow the construction to resume.
"There is absolutely no reason to oppose a legitimate construction project. A mosque is a house of worship for Muslims, as a church is one for Protestants," Kang Geum-soo, a member of the civic group, told The Korea Times.
"Opponents are discriminating against them based on nationality, race and religion. And the local authority should retract its discriminatory administrative order which was made only based on opinions among residents with anti-Muslim sentiment."
He added, "The authorities should take swift action. The building owners are suffering from huge financial losses due to the months-long delay in the construction schedule."