Far-right groups block Great Mosque plans

18th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, April 17, 2007 (AFP) - A French court on Tuesday ordered construction work on a mosque in the Mediterranean port of Marseille to be suspended in response to legal action by far-right groups.

MARSEILLE, France, April 17, 2007 (AFP) - A French court on Tuesday ordered construction work on a mosque in the Mediterranean port of Marseille to be suspended in response to legal action by far-right groups.

The court found in favour of the National Front (FN), the Movement for France (MPF) and the National Republican Movement (MNR), who accused the city of granting a veiled subsidy for the mosque's construction, violating French law on the separation of Church and state.

Marseille city hall decided last July to break a decades-long deadlock over the future mosque by allocating a plot of land for its construction, on a 99-year lease, for a charge of 300 euros per year.

The Marseille administrative court overturned the city's decision, ruling that the generous conditions amounted to a subsidy in disguise, demanding that the mosque renegotiate the terms of the lease in the next two months.

Jean-Claude Gondard, secretary general of Marseille city hall, said the court decision would cause a delay of three to four months at most, and that a new lease would be submitted to the city council in June.

He said the city was committed to file for planning permission in the autumn, but that "the mosque's opponents are very political, and liable to try to block the project every step of the way."

Moulay Abderrahmane Ghoul, regional head of the French Council for the Mulsim Religion, denounced the far-right lawsuit as a "xenophobic and racist political act", but said "the city's will to build the mosque" was not in question.

But the MNR hailed the decision as a "judicial and political victory... against the Islamisation of France."

And Philippe de Villiers, presidential candidate for the Catholic nationalist MPF, welcomed the ruling, calling for a moratorium on all mosque constructions and a charter "imposing respect for the laws of the republic on Islam".

While Marseille's Muslim community is estimated at around 250,000 people, the city's 62 places of worship provide room for only around 6,200 faithful.

The first plans for a Great Mosque in Marseille go back to the 1930s, but the project repeatedly floundered due to divisions within the city's Muslim community, as well as a degree of resistance from the local population.

Eager to catch up with other major cities such as Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg, which either have or plan to build Great Mosques, Marseille agreed to make available an 8,000 square-metre (two acre) plot of land in the north of the city to the association in charge of the project.

Construction work is not expected to start for several years however, since the Muslim community has yet to start collecting the eight to 10 million euros (10 to 13 million dollars) needed for the project.

The money must come from private donations and foreign contributions will be tightly monitored and limited to 20 or 30 percent of the total.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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