French Mayor Offers Public Funds to Build Mosque
Posted by antikafirphobia on December 22, 2007
Dec. 9, 2007, CRETEIL, France — Next June, Creteil’s Muslims are scheduled to move into a new, $7.4 million mosque with room for more than 2,500 worshipers. The nearly finished building, with its 81-foot minaret, stands on a knoll overlooking the town’s picturesque lake, within sight of city hall and the local police station.
The mosque will make Creteil something of an exception in Europe. From London to Cologne to Marseille, governments and residents are fighting the rise of minarets on their skylines in campaigns that underscore cultural, religious and ethnic divides within a continent undergoing its most dramatic demographic change in half a century. Islam is now Europe’s second-largest religion after Christianity, and its fastest-growing. But Creteil’s city government is taking a different path, helping Muslims build and finance what will be one of France’s largest new mosques. “We wanted the mosque to be built where everyone could see it,” said Mayor Laurent Cathala, who can watch the construction from his 11th-floor office. “We didn’t want to hide it. Putting it under the window of the mayor and the police is the best way to eliminate underground sites and extremist ways.”
Still, the mosque did not come this far without a struggle. French authorities are attempting to deport its imam; anti-immigrant city council members are protesting the use of public funds for its adjacent cultural center; and some townsfolk say they fear women may no longer be allowed to wear swimsuits at the lake, for fear of offending the modesty of the worshipers. (Not so, says the mayor.)
France has the largest number of Muslims of any country in Europe, an estimated 5 million — about 8 percent of the population. In suburban communities such as Creteil, population 88,000, the percentage is often higher — 20 percent here, according to Muslim association president Benaissa.
The idea for the new Creteil mosque was conceived 15 years ago but remained mired in internal Muslim feuds for nearly a decade. Then Mayor Cathala stepped in and offered to help find land and financing for a mosque complex that would include a restaurant, bookstore, library, exhibition hall and study rooms.
But he also had a list of demands. The Muslim community had to agree on a single spokesman, the mosque should be an architectural gem worthy of its prominent lakeside setting, the fundraising would be transparent, and the common areas of the complex would be open to all community residents, not only Muslims.
In return, Cathala would apply a liberal interpretation of a century-old French law barring the use of public funds for religious buildings. He persuaded a majority of the city council to provide nearly $1.5 million to help build the cultural center of the complex — the cafe, exhibition center, bathhouse, bookstore and study rooms.
Cathala’s plan was hardly welcomed by everyone. “Jews pay for their synagogues, Catholics pay for their churches,” said Lysiane Choukroun, 59, a council member from the National Republican Movement Party, whose members have opposed mosque construction in several French cities. “Why should Muslims be helped by Creteil taxpayers?”
“This mosque is more than just an acknowledgment of our religion,” Benaissa said. “It’s an acknowledgment of a city towards its citizens.” http://www.religionnewsblog.com/20079/islam-65
OUR COMMENT: Muslims are very good in demanding their rights. But ‘reciprocity’ does not appear in their vocabulary. This reminds us of SARKOZY’s words : “In France, we respect those who practice Islam. I wish countries with Muslim majorities had the same respect for differences and other people’s identities.”