A local pastor (circled red) leading the obstruction of construction and motivating neighbors to resist.

Daegu Mosque Issue

Share this Article

Unmasking Islamophobia: An in-depth analysis of the Daegu Mosque Issue in South Korea

Explore the Daegu Mosque issue in South Korea, uncovering the deep-rooted Islamophobia behind the conflict. An in-depth analysis of challenges to religious freedom and the impact of third-party groups. Understand the implications of Islamophobia in South Korean society.

In South Korea’s Daegu City, you’ll find Kyungpook National University (KNU), a prestigious institution that offers scholarships to numerous foreign talents each semester, including Muslim students. In 2014, the muslim students acquired an old nearby house, which became their place of congregation and prayer, serving as a Mosque. However, in 2020, when these students decided to reconstruct the Mosque to better cater to their needs, they encountered strong opposition from far-right groups. These groups incited the neighbors against the Muslim students, who had been praying peacefully in the same place for several years. In this article, we delve into the Daegu Mosque issue, examining the events that unfolded and shedding light on the role of Islamophobia in this challenging situation.

Why was there a need for a Mosque in Daegu for Muslim Students?

Muslim students in South Korea encounter a distinctive challenge in practicing their religious beliefs, particularly in regards to prayer. Unlike some other religions that can be practiced individually without specific space requirements, Muslims are obliged to perform five daily prayers at designated times. These prayers are intended to be conducted in a clean and quiet environment. Without access to a mosque or dedicated space, Muslim students may find it challenging to meet this aspect of their faith.
Moreover, having a mosque near their campus can offer Muslim students a sense of community and belonging, which is crucial, especially for those facing isolation or misunderstanding due to Islamophobia. Just as universities provide sports facilities and other spaces for students to relax and pursue their interests, having a mosque accessible to Muslim students allows them to connect with others who share their faith and find spiritual solace. This not only contributes to their religious well-being but also indirectly supports their academic growth and excellence. Ensuring access to a mosque for Muslim students is essential for fostering an inclusive and supportive university environment.

Challenges Faced by Muslim Students at KNU in Acquiring a Suitable Mosque and Prayer Space

In Daegu, while several mosques and prayer places exist, the closest one to KNU requires a lengthy 40-minute commute via public transportation. Moreover, with nearly 3 out of 5 Muslim daily prayers coinciding with lab hours, getting to the nearest mosque would take over three hours in total, making it impractical for daily use.
Initially, due to the absence of a nearby mosque or designated prayer space, Muslim students at Kyungpook National University, Daegu, resorted to praying in a room within a dormitory. However, this arrangement was discontinued later due to administrative issues, leading the students to pray in congregation outdoors. Subsequently, they rented a small house near the faculty apartment, but this option proved short-lived due to increasing numbers and technical challenges. After a special request, the university provided a hall for Jumma (Friday) prayers, but it had its shortcomings, lacking proper ventilation and occasionally requiring evacuation due to conflicting scheduled events. As a response, Muslim students at Kyungpook National University began offering prayers on the rooftop of the stadium pavilion, enduring harsh weather conditions like freezing cold in winter and scorching heat in summer.

Later on, one of the Muslim students generously offered his house as a place of prayer, providing a dedicated room for five daily prayers. Later, the students rented a hall near Kyungpook National University west gate. However, due to space constraints, management issues, and service limitations, they realized the necessity for a permanent mosque.

View Table of Contents

Purchase of an Old Korean House as a Mosque

Overcoming language barriers and facing physical, mental, and financial challenges, the community eventually found a suitable location and purchased an old-fashioned Korean house in 2014. The new site, despite being surrounded by other houses and lacking proper entrance gates, was just a five-minute walk from KNU’s west gate, making it a convenient and affordable option for the students. After the purchase, Muslim students began using the house for prayer. However, its limited size and lack of proper cooling and heating systems presented challenges. To address these issues, the students decided to reconstruct the building, initiating community donations for this purpose since 2014.

For more than six years, until September 2020, the students prayed at the same location without conflicts. However, during large prayers like Fridays or Eid days, the limited space made it difficult for 80 to 100 students to pray together. Many had to pray outside, enduring extreme weather conditions.

View Table of Contents

Reconstruction of the Mosque and the Unexpected Opposition

In 2020, the Muslim students’ community of Kyungpook National University, Daegu, made a decision to reconstruct the mosque and obtained all the required legal permissions. The construction progressed smoothly until February 2021 when it was suddenly halted by the district office of Daegu due to complaints from residents, without proper legal processes and investigations. The issues raised by the neighbors were related to noise and food smells coming from the mosque. However, on different occasions, the residents themselves denied these complaints, mentioning that their opposition was actually rooted in “fear of Islam” or concern about a “large scale mosque” being built in the area.
Following this, the Muslim students found themselves in an unexpected situation, facing challenges they had not encountered before while studying at KNU or living in South Korea. They attempted to address their neighbors’ concerns through dialogue and proposing solutions, such as constructing a proper mosque with soundproof walls and chimneys to address the noise and food smell issues. However, they were unaware that third parties were taking advantage of the situation, and the complaints from neighbors were not the true issue.
As the situation escalated, international media attention was drawn to the issue, leading to numerous reports shedding light on the developments and complexities surrounding the case.

Related: Media Reports on Daegu Mosque Issue

This conflict goes beyond a simple dispute between neighbors and Muslim students or the reconstruction of a place of worship within a residential area. In this article, we will explore the perspectives of the opposing neighbors and the involvement of certain groups in propagating fear against Muslim students.
Moreover, while the neighbors claim their intention is to request the relocation of the mosque and deny any Islamophobic sentiment, questions arise as to why they did not propose any alternative location despite the students’ willingness to consider such a suggestion. With the students waiting for more than two years under reasonable conditions, doubts emerge as to whether there were truly no other suitable options in the entire area or if it was just an excuse to remove the Muslim students from their legally owned property.

View Table of Contents

Debunking Misconceptions About the Daegu Mosque Issue

Since February 2021, the mosque issue has sparked conflict, with opposing groups spreading misconceptions about the mosque and the Muslim student community through the media.

Call for Prayer (Azan) through loudspeaker and loud prayers throughout Ramadan all night long

Raymond Kim, a missionary from the Arab Culture Research Association, asserted that mosques make loud calls to prayer, known as “Azan,” five times a day, resulting in noise pollution and inconvenience for residents. Residents have also voiced concerns about the holding of Ramadan events in the mosque, stating that they are unable to sleep due to the noise from the mosque loudspeakers throughout the night. However, it is important to note that such claims are not based on facts, as calling Azan on a loudspeaker or using external loudspeakers for prayers is not permitted in South Korea. In fact, in South Korea, neither churches nor mosques are permitted to use loudspeakers to ring bells or announce calls to prayer. Additionally, it is crucial to take into account that Muslim students have their academic responsibilities during the day and cannot be expected to engage in prayer all night long. Moreover, during Ramadan, Muslim students observe fasting from early morning until evening and need adequate rest. Praying all night and then attending research labs the following day without sufficient rest is not possible in real life.

View Table of Contents

Buying houses to take control over the whole area

Another misconception spread in the media about the Muslim student community is that they were inquiring and purchasing houses in the vicinity of the mosque with the intention of taking over the entire area. However, the truth is that before commencing the construction, the students made efforts to find an alternative site near the university and along the roadside to enhance convenience for the students. Unfortunately, these alternative sites proved to be too costly. Consequently, the students made the decision to proceed with the reconstruction of the mosque at its current location. However, the construction of a 50 pyeong Mosque, which was essential to accommodate all Muslim students, faced a setback as it was not allowed in the current location due to the absence of a three-meter road access.
As a solution, they had no alternative but to acquire one of the adjacent houses to ensure access to the necessary three-meter road and continue with the reconstruction in accordance with their requirements. After fulfilling this requirement, the relevant authorities granted permission for the reconstruction of the mosque at its current location. It is crucial to emphasize that the acquisition of houses was not aimed at gaining control of the area, as claimed by opposing groups in the media. Instead, it was a necessary step to comply with the authorities requirements and proceed with the reconstruction.

View Table of Contents

Funding and Size of the Mosque

Opposing groups have also raised concerns about the size and funding of the mosque, alleging that it is a three-story building of considerable size and financed by large organizations, suggesting that this issue extends beyond Daehyeon-dong, Daegu, and impacts all of South Korea. Contrary to those claims, the mosque is, in fact, a two-story building, with only a small room intended to be constructed on the second floor. Furthermore, the allegation that the mosque was funded by large organizations lacks evidence and is not supported by facts. If it were true, the students would have been able to acquire a suitable location on the main road effortlessly. However, financial limitations prevented them from doing so. Moreover, when the opposing groups raised concerns about potential illegal funding and filed a complaint with the Daegu Buk-gu Police Station, the authorities conducted a thorough investigation and found no evidence of any suspicious activity.

View Table of Contents

Muslim students intend to settle permanently in this area

Additionally, some residents accused Muslim students of having intentions to permanently settle in the area, citing the construction of the mosque as evidence to support their claim. The residents claim that despite Muslim students expressing their intention to return to their home countries after completing their studies, they allege that the students are buying houses and bringing their entire families, including wives, children, and elderly parents, to settle down in the area permanently. However, these claims are unfounded. Many senior students who were involved in the initial stages of the mosque construction have indeed left Korea after completing their studies and securing employment in other countries. These students adhered to their initial intention to return to their home countries after completing their education in South Korea. Furthermore, raising concerns about Muslim students living with their families while pursuing their education is a violation of their fundamental human rights. Living with one’s family while holding proper legal visas is not a criminal act and should not be subjected to discrimination or unjust accusations. It is essential to respect the rights and choices of individuals and their families in their pursuit of education and personal growth.

View Table of Contents

Establishment of Halal shops and restaurants

Some residents have also expressed concerns that the construction of the mosque may lead to the establishment of Muslim shops and halal restaurants in the surrounding area. Additionally, they fear that Muslim students, even if they live in the neighborhood, may not purchase from local residents and will only use their own halal mart. Indeed, the fear of the establishment of Muslim shops and halal restaurants in the area is not directly related to the construction of the mosque. It is essential for those concerned about the impact of Muslim students to view them as potential consumers. For these students, the availability of halal food is the primary concern, and they will naturally be drawn to more affordable options if available. Moreover, Muslim students often purchase affordable vegetables and other items from the Korean market, regardless of their religious affiliation, as this behavior is a normal aspect of market psychology. Therefore, if local shops can offer cheaper alternatives, Muslim students would be more inclined to purchase from them as well. This demonstrates that the presence of the mosque and the presence of local businesses can complement each other, fostering a sense of community and inclusivity.

View Table of Contents

Doesn’t the Mosque belong to students?

The residents and other opposing groups have made unfounded claims regarding the purpose of the mosque and its intended beneficiaries. During a rally held in front of Kyungpook National University, they falsely asserted that the mosque was not intended for the university’s students. Furthermore, they have alleged in media interviews that none of the building owners were international students at KNU, claiming to have obtained this information from the university after making a request. These claims are, in fact, contradicted by their own statements made in other interviews. For instance, they have expressed concerns about the noise and activity generated by hundreds of Muslim students from KNU and the surrounding area walking to and from the mosque along the narrow Daehyeon-dong alley five times a day to pray in accordance with Islamic law. Additionally, the assertion that not a single owner of the adjacent properties was a KNU student is also false, as two of the owners were KNU researchers at the time of the mosque’s construction. Furthermore, it should be noted that these two researchers have recently left Korea after obtaining employment in other countries, which undermines the propaganda that the mosque is being constructed for Muslim students to settle in Korea permanently. These contradictions raise questions about the accuracy and credibility of the opposing groups’ claims.

View Table of Contents

Would they still have opposed it if it were not a mosque but a church?

The opposing groups are trying to deny the presence of Islamophobia in this issue by stating that they would have opposed the construction of a church or temple in the same area as well, suggesting that their objections are not about religious discrimination. However, their claim is proven wrong because there is already a large church on the street next to the mosque, along with several other churches in the nearby area. This indicates that their opposition is specifically targeted at the mosque and the Muslim community, raising concerns about religious discrimination and intolerance.

View Table of Contents

Does the Mosque cause an invasion of privacy?

Furthermore, the opposing groups have expressed worries about the mosque being an invasion of privacy. They claim that constructing a mosque taller than the surrounding houses would violate the residents’ privacy. However, they don’t seem to share the same concern about the nearby church and apartments, which are even taller than the mosque. Even if privacy is a genuine concern, it can be addressed by implementing measures to protect the windows facing the houses in a way that ensures the houses are not visible from the inside of the mosque. This way, the privacy concerns can be resolved without hindering the construction of the mosque.

View Table of Contents

Muslim students are being blamed for spreading Covid-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Muslim students faced unfair blame for the spread of the virus, despite numerous cases reported among people of other religions as well. Interestingly, not a single case has been linked to the students praying at this mosque. This disparity highlights the Islamophobic bias of these opposing groups, a crucial aspect that will be explored further in this article.

View Table of Contents

Are the Muslim students really a threat to Security and public safety?

According to certain media reports, Muslim students have been accused of imposing Islamic culture in the area, leading to concerns about security and difficulty in raising children. Opponents of the mosque express worries about public safety, especially regarding walking on the streets at night. They have even made accusations of Muslim students threatening and chasing them. Some residents have reported anxiety and fear from Muslims, claiming they feel threatened by non-verbal cues such as rolling their eyes or tapping their shoulders, which has resulted in severe mental and psychological stress leading to physical discomfort. These accusations have caused fear among residents but have been refuted by Muslim students who assert that the surrounding streets are monitored by CCTV cameras, and any such incidents would have been reported to the police if they had occurred. Since 2014, Muslim students have been consistently praying at the same location. Despite the ongoing conflict, they continue to perform their daily prayers five times a day and use the same street without any evidence of misconduct. Additionally, there have been no complaints filed with the police to substantiate these accusations. It is essential to highlight that South Korea takes such complaints seriously, and if such activities were indeed happening, especially involving foreigners, the situation would be dealt with more severely.

View Table of Contents

Is this Mosque in Daegu causing this area to become a ‘Muslim Town’?

The residents in the neighborhood where the mosque is located have expressed concerns about it becoming a “Muslim town,” making non-Muslims hesitant to enter the area. They also argue that the rate of Korean students living alone in this neighborhood is lower compared to other residential areas. However, these claims are challenged by the fact that many foreigners, including Muslims, live in other regions around Kyungpook National University, such as near the North Gate, and there are also many Korean students residing in those areas. This raises the question of how many Korean students have actually left those places because of Muslims. Additionally, it’s important to mention that Muslim students attend the same research labs and classes as Korean students, and there have been no reports of complaints or issues related to their presence. It is worth noting that the houses in the area surrounding the mosque are mostly older Korean-style houses with fewer facilities compared to newer, more modern apartments. As a result, most Korean and European foreign students prefer to live in the latter. However, for Muslim students and their families, these older houses are a more affordable option.

View Table of Contents

Did the residents really not know that it was a Mosque prior to the reconstruction?

There have been several statements in the media from residents regarding the construction of the mosque. They claim that they were initially told by the builders that a one-story building would be constructed, but later, they discovered that a large mosque was being built. The residents also express that they believed the students were creating a new prayer place and were unaware that it would be a mosque. However, it’s important to note that the residents were not deceived by the Muslim students. The confusion may arise from different perceptions of what constitutes a prayer place versus a mosque. For Muslims, a dedicated place for offering prayers is called a Mosque. Furthermore, this place was already registered with the name “Dar-ul-Emaan Kyungpook Islamic Center” in 2014, as evident from figure 1, when it was initially purchased. Therefore, during their meetings with the neighbors before starting the construction, the students clearly communicated their intention to reconstruct their existing place, emphasizing that the current building was inadequate and unsuitable for their requirements. Additionally, they even gave gifts to the adjacent neighbors. The false claims about the size of the mosque have been discussed earlier in the article. In addition to the opposition citing issues like cracks in the wall and noise and dust during construction, it’s important to consider that such concerns are not exclusive to the construction of a mosque. If any other building were to be constructed in the same area, similar disturbances like noise and dust would be inevitable. The students have shown willingness to repair any damage caused, which further demonstrates their responsibility. These issues are typical during any construction project and not unique to mosques. Any construction work in this area would encounter similar challenges. Therefore, using these reasons as the sole justification for opposition seems unfair, as they apply to any construction endeavor, not just the mosque.

Daegu Mosque Registration Document
Registration document

View Table of Contents

Did Muslim students disrupt the mediation meetings that were held for the resolution of the Daegu Mosque Issue?

The Muslim students made sincere efforts to find a peaceful resolution and willingly participated in mediation meetings with their neighbors. They expressed their willingness to address genuine concerns and find suitable solutions. However, certain opposing groups consistently spread misinformation, claiming that the Muslim side was responsible for disrupting the mediation plan proposed by the Buk-gu Office. False rumors circulated, suggesting that the owners of the mosque building rejected a mediation proposal put forth by Kyungpook National University. The proposal aimed to create an on-campus Islamic prayer center as an alternative solution. Some reports claimed that the students expressed their reluctance to engage in further mediation meetings if similar proposals were presented in the future. 
It is crucial to clarify that the Muslim side did not disrupt the mediation process. The neighbors, on the other hand, expressed an unwillingness to participate in any form of mediation unless the mosque was completely removed from its current location. They made their opposition to the construction clear from the beginning and rejected any form of arbitration. In contrast, the students consistently demonstrated their willingness to address and resolve any genuine concerns related to the construction of the mosque. Despite facing opposition, they remained open to finding peaceful solutions.
Regarding the proposal to relocate to Kyungpook National University, it is important to clarify that this was not an official proposal from the university administration, as confirmed by the district office during the meetings. Moreover, the pastor leading the neighbors’ side in the mediation consistently repeated the same narrative without engaging in substantive discussions about the actual concerns. As a result, significant time was wasted during the meetings, some lasting up to five hours, without addressing the core issues faced by both parties. Additionally, it was the representatives of the neighbors who stated that if the students refused to leave the current site, they would not participate in mediation and would continue to take actions to disturb them. This stance hindered progress in finding a resolution.

View Table of Contents

The reality behind the proposal of relocating Mosque to another place

During the mediation meetings, the District office proposed the option to purchase the current site where the construction of the mosque is set to resume. However, the students rejected this proposal of purchasing the current site without providing an alternative place. Moreover, they displayed a positive attitude towards the district office’s suggestion of moving to another location. In this way, the students demonstrated their willingness to consider alternative solutions for the benefit of both parties involved in the conflict. The students outlined four conditions for the relocation to be considered, which they believed were essential to protect their basic rights, considering the legality of the current site and the court rulings in favor of the Muslim community. Firstly, they insisted that the new site should be within walking distance from the university, just like the current location, to accommodate their busy lab schedules and ensure easy access for prayers. Secondly, they emphasized that the new site should be almost the same size as the current one, as a smaller site would not be sufficient for the number of students praying together. Thirdly, they requested that the new building should have a design similar to the current approved architecture. Lastly, the students asked for a non-objection certificate from the residents near the new site to ensure peaceful coexistence and avoid potential conflicts with the local community. However, no alternative place was suggested to the students. The authorities responsible for addressing the issue communicated that fulfilling the students’ request for relocation based on the existing four conditions is not feasible due to opposition from third-party entities involved in the matter.

View Table of Contents

Is Islamophobia a factor behind the opposition to the reconstruction of the Daegu Mosque?

The residents claim that their opposition to the construction of the mosque is not based on Islamophobia. However, their actions towards the Muslim students so far suggest a different perspective. Although the residents deny directly labeling the Muslim students as terrorists, video evidence from the same alley, broadcasted by the media, captures individuals referring to the students as terrorists.
The residents displayed signboards and banners in the alley with derogatory statements associating Muslims with terrorism. One of the banners conveyed the message that the area would become densely populated with Muslims, leading to instability and the development of a slum-like environment, drawing a comparison to certain European areas.
During an interview with the media, certain residents expressed their viewpoint, stating, “It is not a story that international students are terrorists. It is not 100% in Islam, but about one out of 100 may be a terrorist.”
Furthermore, they made it clear that their objection to the construction of the mosque is not solely focused on issues related to noise or food odors, but instead, it is primarily driven by a fear of Islam.
The residents have also raised concerns about terrorism, stating that “The threat of terrorism is also a concern. Korea is not a safe zone either.”
Moreover, there have been reports of individuals stating, “We know from the news that when the Muslim population exceeds 5%, it causes terrorism and conflict. Terrorist threats are always with us. Islam is said to be a ‘religion of peace’. Does a religion of peace insist on its own culture and behead people?”. One person expressed the view that while not all Muslims are terrorists, they believe that all terrorists are Muslims.
Additionally, the Emergency Response Committee, formed by the residents who are against the construction of the mosque, has been involved in actions that can be seen as Islamophobic. They distributed pamphlets that misrepresented Quranic verses, contributing to the spread of stereotypes and false information about Islam.
Moreover, intentional disruptions during prayer times by playing loud music, offensive banners targeting Islam, and displaying pig heads in the alley create a hostile and disrespectful environment for the Muslim students. These actions add to the tensions and difficulties faced by the students in practicing their faith peacefully.
Furthermore, they went to the extent of acquiring two pigs with the intention of raising them in the alley near the Mosque, explicitly to provoke Muslim students. Additionally, they had plans to prepare two large pots for boiling pork over the course of a month. However, they later abandoned this idea for some undisclosed reasons. These actions demonstrate a deliberate attempt to create a hostile and offensive environment for the Muslim community.
These actions go against the values of religious freedom and tolerance, and they also promote discrimination and bias. Apart from opposing the construction of the mosque, the residents arranged multiple pork BBQ parties right in front of the mosque. Their purpose was to make the Muslim students uncomfortable, and they even tried to justify these actions by calling them “Korean Culture.” Such behavior only adds to the already existing tensions and creates a hostile environment for the Muslim community.
Furthermore, an unfortunate incident occurred where an unidentified substance, possibly pig fat or oil, was sprayed on the pathway leading to the mosque. This act made the path dirty and unpleasant. Surprisingly, no one else in the alley, including other neighbors, lodged any complaints about this issue. The absence of complaints from other residents implies a collective acceptance or indifference towards this harmful act, which adds to the concerns and discomfort faced by the Muslim community.
Apart from their previous actions, the opposing groups went as far as displaying Islamophobic and insulting banners in front of schools attended by Muslim children. This had a distressing impact on the children, who were deeply affected by the disrespectful messages. In response, the children took a brave step by writing heartfelt letters to their neighbors, appealing for understanding and respect towards their religion. In these letters, they emphasized the importance of recognizing our shared humanity and expressed a sincere desire for a world where people from diverse backgrounds can coexist in harmony. Their compassionate plea for acceptance and unity serves as a powerful reminder of the need for empathy and compassion in our society.
Although the residents publicly claim that their opposition to building the mosque in a crowded residential area is solely due to practical reasons, there is evidence indicating a deeper problem of Islamophobia. This evidence comes from a petition filed by one of the residents at the Blue House National, where they explicitly state that if the mosque is built, it will lead to negative consequences for the area and the country, suggesting a fear of Islamization. These remarks reveal the underlying issue of Islamophobia behind their opposition to the mosque. This sentiment is further supported by the residents’ supporters, as mentioned in a report by the Korean Church Press Association. The report states that the residents view Islam as a highly threatening force, and they express concerns that as Muslims get closer, they also fear the proximity of terrorism
The opposing residents were quoted as stating that they would not surrender even a single unit of land to ‘Islam’ in Daehyeon-dong!
One resident voiced their concerns, emphasizing that they have never raised issues related to noise or odor. Their primary concern lies with the potential for conflict, terrorism, and the perceived Islamization of the area. Another resident expressed his viewpoint by stating that the presence of Muslim tenants has led to what they perceive as an Islamization of the west gate of Kyungpook National University. A resident mentioned that they oppose the construction of the mosque because they find the appearance of Muslim students unfamiliar and uncomfortable. In a petition filed at the Blue House by one of the residents, they expressed concerns about what they believe are significant Islamic forces trying to Islamize the country. They believe that this support is being provided from behind as part of a strategic approach.
When the representative of the residents claims that these statements and actions are not Islamophobic, it makes us wonder what should be considered as Islamophobia.

A signboard made by residents against
Muslim students in the alley
31st July, 2021 A signboard made by residents against
Muslim students in the alley
A car blocking the entrance of the alley
towards Mosque, with Islamophobic signboard
August 3, 2021 A car blocking the entrance of the alley
towards Mosque, with Islamophobic signboard
A third pig head was also placed in
front of the Mosque gate in the alley.
December 6th, 2022. A third pig head was also placed in
front of the Mosque gate in the alley.

View Table of Contents

Role of Third Parties

In understanding the conflict, it’s important to look at the timeline of events. Before the conflict in February 2021, Muslim students had been using the same location for prayers since 2014. The previous building was registered as the “Dar ul Emaan Kyungpook Islamic Center” when it was purchased. From October 2020 to January 2021, the reconstruction process was going smoothly without any problems. However, things changed suddenly, and some neighbors became hostile and displayed Islamophobic feelings. This hostility can’t be solely due to the construction. It seems to be a broader dislike towards Islam as a religion, with baseless accusations directed at the students. Religious and anti-migrant groups’ involvement in this issue is also worth considering.
The evidence points to the involvement of local pastors in the conflict. One pastor was identified as the person who referred to Muslim students as terrorists and called for their departure from the country. Another pastor led the protests and represented the neighbors’ interests in official mediation meetings at the district office. These claims are not baseless and can be verified by requesting the authorities to disclose the names of individuals who participated in the official mediation meetings, those who were fined for obstructing the construction by parking their cars, and those who were fined for interfering with the construction vehicle by jumping on it. Such information would reveal the pastors’ involvement in these activities.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea took action in response to derogatory and abusive banners targeting Islam and Muslims. They recommended the removal of these banners and the resumption of mosque construction. This step was taken to address the harmful and offensive messages that were being displayed and to promote respect and understanding among different communities. Despite the evidence of discriminatory actions, groups like People’s Sovereignty Action criticized the National Human Rights Commission’s recommendation. They claimed that the conflict was solely about the owners’ religious freedom and property rights, dismissing any mention of racial discrimination and religious oppression. However, this criticism overlooks the factual evidence and appears to disregard the discriminatory behaviors exhibited by these groups.
The National Action for Refugee Countermeasures initiated a signature campaign against the construction of the mosque. Their advocacy extended beyond opposing this particular mosque, as they called for a halt to the construction of mosques and prayer facilities throughout the entire Republic of Korea. Furthermore, they demanded the demolition of existing mosques and prayer spaces. This stance raises serious concerns about religious freedom and tolerance.
National Action for Refugees and People’s Sovereignty Action jointly organized several rallies to oppose the construction of the mosque. During these rallies, they displayed banners outside schools, including those attended by Muslim students, with messages like “Are Taliban in Daehyeon-Dong” and “Is this your country?” These banners and actions create a hostile and discriminatory atmosphere, promoting fear and prejudice towards the Muslim community.
During a press conference, a pastor who also serves as the CEO of an organization made concerning statements. He expressed the view that “Churches have to risk their lives and fight to oppose the construction” and declared that “Islam must not be allowed to set foot in the country.”
The chairman of the Daegu-Gyeongbuk CE Council voiced the opinion that Christianity is facing suppression due to the perceived unreasonable construction of a mosque in Daehyeon-dong.
The Korean Church Press Association, through a press release, was found to be contributing to the spread of fear by making accusations that Muslims are terrorists in connection to the construction of the mosque.
Missionary Lee Man-Seok, who is also a director of an institute at Presbyterian Churches in Korea, has been spreading false information and misinterpreting Islamic teachings. He made alarming statements linking gang-rape to the culture of Islam, creating fear and implying that South Korea could face similar acts. It is essential to recognize that crimes like rape can be committed by individuals of different religious beliefs, and it is unfair to blame any specific religion or culture for such actions.
Pastor Kang Hak-geun, head of the Korean Presbyterian Church of Korea, made statements that fueled fear about Muslims concerning the mosque construction. He described Islam as a dangerous religion and urged an end to alleged human rights violations, specifically mentioning concerns about women’s rights and perceived atrocities against non-Muslims.
The People’s Sovereignty Action’s involvement in filing a complaint with the police about fundraising for the mosque’s construction raises questions about their role in the matter. Also, one of their female representatives from the Daegu branch participated in both the complaint filing and an official mediation meeting at the district office, showing their involvement from the beginning. On April 20, 2023, several Christian and civic groups, including People’s Sovereignty Action, declared an “all-out war” against the mosque’s construction. These groups formed a special task force dedicated to this issue and announced plans to organize large rallies against the mosque’s construction.

Two pastors circled red, sitting on top of
construction vehicle. A female linked to People Sovereign Action
Group (in green rectangle) also obstructing the construction.
August 6, 2022, Two pastors circled red, sitting on top of
construction vehicle. A female linked to People Sovereign Action
Group (in green rectangle) also obstructing the construction.
A local pastor (circled red) leading the
obstruction of construction and motivating neighbors to resist.
August 30, 2022, A local pastor (circled red) leading the
obstruction of construction and motivating neighbors to resist.
A local pastor harassing Muslim student
by calling him terrorist and asking to leave this country.
August 2, 2021, A local pastor harassing Muslim student
by calling him terrorist and asking to leave this country.

View Table of Contents

Media Representative Targeted by Anti-Mosque Group

In an attempt to counter the propaganda spread by opposing groups, Muslim students actively engaged with local and international media representatives. However, the media representative for the Muslim student community became a target of online attacks by the opposing groups.
Pastor Joseph Joo, an official of People’s Sovereignty Action and the countermeasures committee formed for the mosque issue misinterpreted a tweet by Muaz Razaq, the media representative. Due to this misinterpretation, Pastor Joseph Joo made an untrue claim that the students were attempting to set up a base for the Taliban in the residential area of Daehyeon-dong. This false claim was also shared on the People’s Sovereignty Action’s account.
After Pastor Joseph Joo mentioned Muaz Razaq’s social media accounts, Muaz started getting threatening and abusive messages from unknown people. Worried about this, Muaz Razaq went to the nearby Police Station with a friend to ask for an investigation into the matter. He even offered to be investigated himself regarding the tweet in question. It’s essential to know that Pastor Joseph Joo’s actions, misinterpreting Muaz Razaq’s tweet, could be seen as a cyber crime, and he should face consequences for encouraging abusive and threatening messages. Sadly, the response from the police official at that time was disappointing, as they suggested Muaz Razaq to document the messages and only come back if things got worse.
The next day, Muaz Razaq got contacted by the Intelligence department, and they investigated his tweet. The investigation didn’t find any evidence of suspicious activity or wrongdoing. After the investigation, Muaz Razaq asked for action against those spreading false allegations and propaganda on social media. It’s important to follow proper procedures when dealing with such issues. If someone has suspicions about someone else, they should inform intelligence agencies, so a thorough investigation can happen. This way, individuals won’t be wrongly defamed or abused on social media. However, as of writing this article, there have been no consequences for Pastor Joseph Joo’s tweet, which is still available online. This raises concerns about the effectiveness of addressing cyber-crimes and online defamation promptly.
Muaz Razaq’s tweet contained the following content: “Haris Ali suggested: This is the right time for the Taliban to invade the USA in the name of human rights violations and protection of nuclear assets of the USA #blacklifematters #TrumpOut2020.” Muaz Razaq claims that his tweet was meant to be sarcastic, which can be understood from the hashtags he used. The hashtag #blacklifematters or #blacklivesmatter gained significant attention in June 2020 following the tragic incident involving George Floyd, who died while restrained by police officers in the United States. The aftermath of this incident led to widespread unrest, including instances of property destruction.
To fully understand the sarcasm in the tweet, it’s important to know the background of the events. The United States invaded Iraq, believing they had nuclear weapons that could fall into terrorists’ hands. But later, it was acknowledged as an intelligence failure. The tweet imagines a scenario where the Taliban uses similar language to justify protecting nuclear weapons. It’s like saying, “What if the Taliban did the same as the US?” The tweet connects this idea to the aftermath of George Floyd’s incident, where there was chaos and damage to buildings. The sarcasm was used to make a point, but it’s essential to consider the context and intention behind the tweet to fully grasp its meaning.

View Table of Contents

The Role of Law Enforcement Authorities

This case presents a big challenge for Korean law enforcement in upholding the law, especially when powerful groups are involved and don’t respect the Supreme Court’s decision. The law enforcement’s role in this conflict has been disappointing because they delayed the legal construction of the mosque despite the court’s ruling in favor of the Muslim students. It’s also disheartening to hear the head of the Buk-gu district office make statements about reverse discrimination. These statements ignore the real situation and how some groups are using it to spread hate against Muslims in Korea.
Despite the court’s order to not obstruct the mosque construction, there are still instances of resistance and hostility when Muslim students try to resume building. Local pastors and residents verbally and physically abuse the constructor, even in the presence of law enforcement officers. In one incident, a resident pushed the constructor and fell down, but she falsely accused the constructor and shared this incident in the media to gain sympathy. The media representative of the Muslim students responded by sharing videos on Twitter, showing that it was the resident who had been pushing the constructor. This raises questions about the role of law enforcement in allowing physical assault, which is a crime under Korean law. Also, the police’s failure to prevent the false case against the constructor, causing distress to the Muslim students, needs to be looked into further.
This case is a challenge for law enforcement to show their dedication to upholding the rule of law and treating everyone fairly, no matter their religion or culture. It’s important for them to take the right steps to prevent discrimination or bias and to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision properly. Equal treatment for all individuals should be ensured.

View Table of Contents

Is it the only case of Islamophobia?

It’s important to note that Islamophobia in South Korea goes beyond the current conflict over the Daegu Mosque construction. If you’re interested in this topic, you should look into the involvement of certain groups like National Action for Refugee Countermeasures and People’s Sovereignty Action in other cases, such as the Yemeni Refugees issue, Yeoncheon Muslim Campground issue, Afghan refugees issue, and the ongoing Daegu Mosque issue. There may be connections and patterns to explore in understanding the broader picture of Islamophobia in the country.
Indeed, investigating the involvement of these groups in various instances of Islamophobia can provide a comprehensive understanding of the patterns and discriminatory attitudes towards Muslims in South Korea. By examining these cases together, we can gain insights into the challenges faced by Muslim individuals and communities in the country. It also emphasizes the urgency of addressing and combating such prejudices to promote a more inclusive and tolerant society.

View Table of Contents


Share this Article

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *