Sunday, April 02, 2006

French Muslims Get Grand Mosque
The mosque accommodates some 1,000 worshipers.
By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent

PARIS, April 1, 2006 ( - French Muslims in the southeastern city of Villeurbanne will no longer be crammed into vault prayer rooms or perform the weekly Friday prayer in the open as a grand mosque, accommodating 1,000 worshipers, opens its doors on Sunday, April 2.
"Villeurbanne now has a mosque in the true, literal sense of the word," Azzedin Gaci, the imam of the new mosque and the chairman of the French Council for Muslim Faith (CFCM) chapter in the Rhone Alpes province, told
"A handful of Muslim places of worship in France can be called mosques," Gaci said.
"French Muslims are entitled to establish grand mosques to be a source of pride for both Muslims and Islam."
The three-storey Othman Mosque is built on 1,200 square meters with a huge library, school and a parking lot.
Dalil Boubakeur, the chairman of the umbrella CFCM, and Minister of Transport Dominique Perben will inaugurate the mosque Saturday, April 1, accompanied by a host of local religious leaders in the city.
Construction of the mosque, named after third Muslim Caliph Othman Ibn Affan, began in July 2003.
France is home to around six million Muslims, the largest Muslim minority in Europe.
The mosque building also features a school and a huge library.
Gaci said what is unique about the new mosque is its absolute financial independence.
"It is 100 percent funded by French Muslims and has received no foreign aid," he added.
The Islamic Cultural League in France, which supervised the construction of the Othman Mosque, raised one million euros for the project from French Muslims.
"This financial independence will consequently make the mosque politically independent from any foreign influences," said Gaci.
"It is open for all Muslims irrespective of their ethnic or communal backgrounds. It is, in fact, a stepping stone towards a 'French Islam' as the problems facing Muslims here are purely French."
Many mosques in France are affiliated either to the different Muslim communities in the European country or their countries of origin.
Paris Mosque, for instance, has indirect links to the Algerian government, while others are known for their affiliations with Morocco or Gulf states.
In March last year, France's major Islamic groups and then Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin gave the go-ahead for establishing the Foundation for Islamic Works with the aim of financing the construction of mosques and development of other Islamic activities in France.
A French book published in 2004 highlighted the history of mosques in France, particularly in the northern Alsace area.
Titled "Histoires de Mosquees,"
the book takes the readers back to the early stage of construction of mosques in France in 1960s.

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