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Passion Islam I June 2010

WORLD NEWS I 15

France new mega-mosque

French Muslims celebrate a milestone when building work begins on a mega-mosque in Marseille, the nation’s biggest and a potent symbol of Islam’s place in modern France. A day after the French

government approved a bill banning the full Islamic veil, Muslim leaders will join politicians for a ceremony to lay the cornerstone at a dusty construction site in northern Marseille. France’s second city is home to 250,000 Muslims, many of whom flock to makeshift prayer houses in basements, rented rooms and dingy

garages to worship. With a minaret soaring 25 meters (82 feet) high, the Grand Mosque will hold up to 7,000 people in its prayer room and the complex will also boast a Quranic school, library, restaurant and tea room when it opens in 2012. For more than 60 years, Muslim leaders have campaigned for a mega- mosque as a prominent gathering place that would bring Islam out of the basements and allow it to thrive under Marseille’s Mediterranean sun. The turning point came in 2001 when Mayor Jean- Claude Gaudin, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing party, decided to back the 22-million-euro ($27 million) project, overriding objections from the far-right.

Like Sarkozy, Gaudin has argued that supporting new mosques will help France’s large Muslim minority integrate into the mainstream and foster a form of moderate, modern Islam that shuns burkas.

“This is the real face of Islam in France,” said Nourredine Cheikh, president of the association that has lead the campaign for the Grand Mosque, as he pointed at the architect plans for the massive new complex.

“This is recognition. This is what tells me that I have the same status as Catholics and other religious people in this country.”

The grand mosque will be built in the Saint-Louis area of Marseille, an ethnically mixed neighborhood where Nasir’s pizzeria and Bernard’s driving school share the same street. The building permit was formally handed over to Muslim leaders in November, despite court challenges from the far-right who have dubbed the new building a “cathedral mosque” meant to rival Marseille’s Catholic churches. Home to Europe’s biggest Muslim

minority, estimated at between five and six million, France has for years been debating how far it is willing to go to accommodate Islam, now the country’s second religion. Soon after Switzerland voted to ban minaret construction last year, Sarkozy warned French Muslims to “avoid ostentation” in the practice of their religion and he has declared the face-covering veil “not welcome” in France.

With parliament now set to debate a bill that would bar women from wearing the full Islamic veil, Muslim leaders worry about a surge of Islamophobia in France. Last month, gunmen sprayed bullets across the facade of the Arrahma mosque in Istres, a town a few dozen kilometers from Marseille, raising alarm among Muslims.

Egypt authorities opens Rafah crossing with Gaza

Egyptian authorities opened its borders with Gaza to allow departure of Palestinians who have been stranded in the enclave for more than 70 days in a row, the deposed Hamas’ government of Gaza said. In a statement sent to the media,

Hamas’ ministry of interior said that about 8,000 Palestinians, mostly patients, students and holders of foreign passports or residency permissions in other countries, have

applied to travel.

The only crossing that Gaza’s can travel through to the outside world is initially set to remain open for three days and Hamas authorities doubt that all the registered people could make their way out.

Egypt shut down the crossing in 2007, when Hamas took over the coastal enclave after routing security forces loyal to President Mahmoud

Abbas. A U.S.-brokered agreement, signed in 2005 when Israel withdrew its forces and settlers from Gaza, stresses that the crossing can operate regularly only when pro- Abbas forces and European Union (EU) monitors be present. However, Egypt opens the crossing from time to time before humanitarian cases and people who had got security clearance from Egyptian authorities. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28
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