For a long time there has been talk about a giant mosque to be built in Marseilles in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône. Now, the project is several steps closer to becoming a reality. This article comes from the regional news source La Provence. It begins by saying that any resident of the 15th arrondissement of Marseilles, who leaves and returns in three years, will not recognize the place:
A grand mosque measuring 2500 square meters, for 4000 persons, a Koranic school for 120 students, a restaurant accommodating 230, a library for 150 persons, an underground parking for 250 vehicles: the former stockyards will be converted into the largest Islamic site of the city and will spread out over 6500 square meters and will hold in all up to 8000 persons. The Mecca of Bouches-du-Rhône!
How to finance it is the question being worked on by Nourrédine Cheikh and the Association for the Grand Mosque, which he heads with the close collaboration of Guy Teissier (the UMP deputy from Bouches-du-Rhône). The land was provided by the city and the architectural firm has been chosen. Now donations are required (Marseilles has 200,000 Muslims), without which the project cannot materialize.
Note: The figure of 200,000 Muslims may be accurate, or not. I have seen 300,000 also given as the figure. It always depends on who is counted and who is doing the counting.
The article describes how a campaign will be launched to raise the funds needed. This will include money from foreign countries capped by law at 1,750 million euros per country. Nine million euros are needed for the building, and 22 million for the entire project. It is expected to be completed in 2011.
For now only Algeria has contributed, offering 170,000 euros. “But this is only an advance on the million euros given by Algeria every year to help the mosques of France.” In other words, Algeria should give more. In this context, Jean-Noël Guérini, on a visit to Algiers to discuss the partnership between his department and the Algerian capital, received the confirmation of that country’s participation in the funding.
Note: Jean-Noël Guérini, a member of the Socialist Party, is senator from Bouches-du-Rhône and president of the General Council of the department.
The above statement would seem to imply that Algeria will give more than its usual annual gift of one million euros. (A reader at Le Salon Beige facetiously suggests that Algeria might have obtained this money from subsidies sent by France in the first place.)
“In addition, we will write to other Arab countries,” continues Nourrédine Cheikh. “The money should follow. One thing is certain: there will be no monopoly (“mainmise”) on the mosque and the money will be collected in the most transparent manner possible. We will also be very vigilant regarding Islamist associations.”
It should be pointed out that an amphitheater of 120 seats will also be built for conferences open to everybody. A strong sign from Cheikh who wants to show that far from any form of obscurantism, the grand mosque of Marseilles will be, above all, open to non-Muslims.
So this is a piece of news that was expected, but it should warm the hearts of the Muslims of Marseilles. During a meeting in Algiers, (…) Djamel Ould-Abbes, the Algerian minister of national solidarity and solidarity with the Algerian communities abroad, declared: “We want it to be the most important mosque in France.”
The association set to manage the religious center is accepting money from any Arab country with whom France maintains diplomatic relations. And Moulay Abderrahmane Ghoul, regional vice-president of the CFCM declared: “We expect a lot from Algeria. But there will be no monopoly of one country on the project.”
Reminder: CFCM refers to the French Council of the Muslim Religion, created by Interior Minister Sarkozy.