Saudi Arabia has offered to build 200 mosques in Germany to accommodate the wave of Muslim refugees there if German authorities permit, according to media reports Thursday. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and other asylum seekers from countries in North Africa and the Middle East have sought refuge in Europe in recent months.
The Lebanese newspaper Ad-Diyar first reported the offer last week, citing a request by a committee of sheikhs. Saudi Arabia also vowed to donate at least $200 million, according to the Lebanese paper, although whether that was to support the refugees or to build the suggested mosques was unclear.
The proposal comes amid growing accusations of hypocrisy directed toward the wealthy gulf nation and its neighbors for taking in few, if any, refugees from the ongoing four-year civil war in Syria, even as they funnel support to groups fighting there. In 2014, Saudi Arabia accepted just 561 refugees and 100 asylum seekers, according to the United Nations, the Wall Street Journal reported. Fewer still found refuge in Qatar and Bahrain. Germany, by contrast, has said it will accept 800,000 refugees, and countries bordering Syria–Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey–have officially taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees each.
Proposals for building mosques have an uneasy history in Germany. In July, when an Islamic center decided to convert a church in northern Germany into a mosque to accommodate its expanding following, locals protested. The Christian Democratic Union party requested the church not be changed, while one pastor recommended razing the building, the New York Times reported.
In 2012, a mega mosque built by Turkey in Cologne sparked pushback as well. Islamic Turkish Associations were there “to challenge the sovereignty of Christianity in Cologne,” Michael Höhne-Pattberg, identified as an anti-jihad activist, told CBN news at the time. Other locals in towns where Muslims populations were growing similarly criticized what they called the “Islamization” of their town.