By HUSSEIN KNEIBER
By HUSSEIN KNEIBER
Paris, June 21, 2012
A new mosque bearing the name of Moroccan King Mohamed VI is now open in France amid praise of the cooperation of the French authorities.
President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil Français du Culte Musulman- CFCM) Mohammed Moussaoui inaugurated the Mohamed VI Mosque in the southwestern French city of Saint-Étienne.
The mosque, built on an area of 10,000 square meters, boosts a 14-meter high minaret and accommodates more than 1,000 worshippers.
The inauguration was attended by Moussaoui, mosque manager al-Arabi Marchich, Moroccan Minister of Endowments Ahmed Tawfik, and representatives of Saint-Étienne’s municipal authorities.
The mosque includes a cultural center which is intended to act like a branch of the famous Paris-based Arab World Institute, according to Marchich.
The construction of the mosque, said Moussaoui, offered a proof of the cooperation of French authorities with the Muslim community in France to promote freedom of worship.
“This mosque replaces an old one built on a land the municipality of Saint-Étienne became in need of,” he told Al Arabiya. “So we gave up the land and they gave us another one to build a new mosque in addition to an amount of 180,000 Euros.”
The construction of the mosque, he added, was also not faced with any objections on the part of the French population in the city.
The mosque became popular as soon as it was opened. In fact, Muslims in the area started praying in it even before its construction was complete. The imam of the mosque is a Moroccan who speaks fluent French.
The Saint-Étienne mosque joins a long list of French mosques whose numbers have been on the rise in the past few years. In 2005, the number of mosques whose area exceeded 1,000 square meters was only 34 while now the number has reached 200.
According to CFCM reports, more than 1,000 mosques have been constructed in France in the past 10 years.
Apart from big mosques, the number of small and medium prayer halls exceeds 2,300, compared to 1,600 in 2005.
A French law issued in 1905 and which aims at protecting the secularism of the country forbids the state from funding the establishment of places of worship regardless of the faith to be practiced in them.
Mosques in France are usually funded by donations from members of the Muslim community in France in case of small mosques while big mosques are usually funded by other Muslim countries especially Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Morocco, Algeria, and Turkey.
In some French cities, Islamic associations can rent rooms or halls to be used for prayers for amounts as small as one Euro per month. Those contracts usually last for several years after which those halls are returned to the French state.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)