A tale of one city: urban regeneration, heritage making and religion in Lisbon
Based on an ongoing ethnography about the construction of a purpose-built mosque in Lisbon, the objective of this paper is to reveal the relation between religion (as heritage and practice), urban economies and regeneration.
The project for the construction of this new mosque (that has been announced in 2011 and is already underway) implies also the construction of a new square, that will be called “Moorish square”. It is the result of twelve years of negotiations between the Islamic Community of Bangladesh (ICB), an association that has been in charge of a previously existing mosque in this area of the city since 2002, and the Lisbon City Council (LCC), over issues of safety, well-being and adequacy. According to the LCC and the ICB, the previous premises did not guaranty the necessary safety conditions and thus it was essential to build a new and adequate building for men and women. Furthermore, according to the ICB and its executive committee, this project is not only the recognition of a new place and visibility for Islam in Lisbon, an older claim that is finally attended, but it is also a major good deed (waqf) for all Muslims, independently of their national or linguistic backgrounds. Simultaneously, for some segments of the Lisbon city council, the new square and mosque are part of a larger process of building a religiously plural/diverse urban landscape, the arguments of which mobilize references to the Al-Andaluzian and the Moorish heritage. This project is also part of the urban regeneration of an area of the city that was until recently perceived as rundown, marginalized and at risk from a social point of view.
Thus, overall, this research will show how a project for the construction of a new square, and a purpose-built mosque, in downtown Lisbon reveal the complex relations between what Astor, Griera and Burchardt (2017) call religion as heritage and religion as practice.