France: "This Mosque Is a Direct Obstacle to the Integration of [Muslims]"
A French court has annulled the construction permit for a mega-mosque in the southern city of Marseille, home to the largest Muslim community in France.
The court ruling represents a major setback for proponents of the mosque, which has long been touted as the biggest and most potent symbol of Islam's growing place in France -- and Europe.
The move comes as a French newspaper published the contents of a leaked intelligence report about the rise of Islam in Marseille. The document states that "even if the number of individuals who have been radicalized to the point of supporting the Jihadists is relatively low, Islamic fundamentalism has progressed to the point where it has won over the majority of the Muslim population" who live in the city and who now number over 250,000.
The Administrative Tribunal of Marseille ruled on October 27 that the mega-mosque project would have to be cancelled because of failures to meet urban-planning requirements. The court raised particular concerns over the project's failure to finalize a deal for a 450-space parking lot and to reassure planners that the mosque would fit in with the urban environment.
The tribunal noted "a lack of graphical material permitting the evaluation of the project's integration with neighbouring buildings, its visual impact and the treatment of access points and land."
The 22-million-euro ($31-million) project would have seen the Grand Mosque -- boasting a minaret soaring 25 meters (82 feet) high, and room for up to 7,000 worshippers in a vast prayer hall -- built on the north side of the city's old port in
the city's northern Saint-Louis area, an ethnically mixed neighborhood that suffers from poverty and high unemployment.
Several decades in the planning, the project was granted a construction permit in November 2009. At the time, city officials said the new mosque would help the Muslim community better integrate into the mainstream and foster a more moderate form of Islam.
The first cornerstone of the 8,300 square meter (92,000 square feet) project was laid in May 2010. The elaborate stone-laying ceremony was attended by Muslim religious leaders and local politicians, as well as more than a dozen diplomats from Muslim countries.
Full-scale construction of the Grand Mosque -- which was also to have included a Koranic school and a library, as well as a restaurant and tea room -- was scheduled to begin in February 2012.
But the project has faced stiff opposition from local residents and businesses. Opponents of the Grand Mosque have argued that it would be out of harmony with the neighborhood's economic and social fabric.
Local residents also pointed to potential parking problems surrounding the building. Authorities have estimated that the number of people attending Friday prayers at the mosque could reach 1,500, a figure that could rise to up to 14,000 on Muslim holidays.
The court decision comes as the French newspaper La Marseillaise on October 24 published extracts of a leaked intelligence report about the state of Islam in Marseille, France's second-largest city, where the Muslim population has reached 25% of the total population.
The confidential seven-page document, drafted by domestic intelligence in the French administrative department of Bouches-du-Rhône in March 2011, focuses on the phenomenon of Muslim street prayers in Marseille, but also provides a more general assessment of Islam in the city.
The document also addresses a specific mosque on Gaillard Street in the 3rd district of Marseille that is associated with Muslim immigrants from the Comoros Islands, an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean that gained independence from France in 1975.
"Far from being Comorian, this mosque promotes Islam marked by tribalism. It is clear that this mosque is a direct obstacle to the proper integration of Comorians in the Marseilles area, a kind of voluntary marginalization," the document states.
The Koranic school associated with this mosque is also criticised: "Far from awaking spirituality and minds, it locks them even further into a cultural loop and thus increases their communitarian inwardness."
The report describes the Muslim population of Marseille as a "marginalized population, poorly informed, uncultured and with a limited understanding even of their own religion, finding themselves in the hands of self-proclaimed imams, barely more competent than their flocks but sufficiently charismatic to obtain their blind obedience."
The document also calls for fewer mosques in Marseille. It states: "The abundance of prayer rooms in Marseille is largely a reflection of divisions of all kinds: obediential as well as nationalistic, ethnic and even business strategies that set Muslims in Marseille against each other."
The proposed solution is to "refocus the places of worship" which would "permit a professionalization of the imams, achieve economies of scale and force the Islamic federations and sects to reach a consensus. It would marginalize extra-national interests and also facilitate relations and observations with our institutional partners. Not more mosques but better mosques."
Nevertheless, the report warns against the construction of a grand mosque: "This building would dominate an entire part of the city which is not very elevated. It would be visible from most of the surrounding main roads and would perform the call to prayer by using a massive beam of light that would be seen across Marseille. The mosque is generally considered aggressive to the point where a local referendum on the matter would give results at least equivalent and perhaps more emphatic than the voting organized in the Swiss confederation last year [the Swiss vote to ban minarets]."
The report says that building new mosques is only a solution if their architecture is "discreet" in order to "limit their visual impact on the urban landscape."
The document concludes by stating that Muslims in France appear to want the state to intervene in religious matters: "It is interesting to note that the majority of Muslims find it natural for the state to organize religious practice, even by force if necessary, and that many of them even declare that they do not understand the neutrality of France in this matter."
Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.
Comment on this item
by Mudar Zahran
"If Hamas does not like you for any reason all they have to do now is say you are a Mossad agent and kill you." — A., a Fatah member in Gaza.
"Hamas wanted us butchered so it could win the media war against Israel showing our dead children on TV and then get money from Qatar." — T., former Hamas Ministry officer.
"They would fire rockets and then run away quickly, leaving us to face Israeli bombs for what they did." — D., Gazan journalist.
"Hamas imposed a curfew: anyone walking out in the street was shot. That way people had to stay in their homes, even if they were about to get bombed. Hamas held the whole Gazan population as a human shield." — K., graduate student
"The Israeli army allows supplies to come in and Hamas steals them. It seems even the Israelis care for us more than Hamas." — E., first-aid volunteer.
"We are under Hamas occupation, and if you ask most of us, we would rather be under Israeli occupation… We miss the days when we were able to work inside Israel and make good money. We miss the security and calm Israel provided when it was here." — S., graduate of an American university, former Hamas sympathizer.
by Ben Cohen
Now, with the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate having captured key oil wells in the Middle East this year, foreign oil has become an even more lethal financial weapon-of-choice for those seeking to destroy democracy and further escalate the War on Terror.
That President Barack Obama failed even to mention oil as a critical factor in the war against IS during his speech to the nation on September 10, is an omission both revealing and dangerous in terms of how his administration wants to depict the stakes involved in this latest confrontation with the jihadis.
by Lawrence A. Franklin
One Pakistani recruiter of child suicide bombers describes these children as "tools provided by God."
Another Muslim cleric in a madrassa [Islamic boys' school] describes child suicide bombers as "a gift from Allah that we have an unlimited number willing to be sacrificed to teach Americans a lesson."
Using children as suicide bombers will stop when... they stop "condoning the killing of innocents."
by Denis MacEoin
"No religion condones the killing of innocents." — U.S. President Barack Obama, September 10, 2014.
"Islam is a religion of peace." — U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, September 13, 2014.
"There is a place for violence in Islam. There is a place for jihad in Islam." — U.K. Imam Anjem Choudary, CBN News, April 5, 2010.
Regrettably it is impossible to re-interpret the Qur'an in a "moderate" manner. The most famous modern interpretation by Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, leads the reader again and again into political territory, where jihad is at the root of action.
If they deviated from the true faith -- as we are seeing in the Islamic State today -- "backsliders," like pagans, were to be fought until they either accepted Islam or were killed.
In India alone, between 60 and 80 million Hindus may have been put to death by Muslim armies between the years 1000-1525.
by Yaakov Lappin
Hamas's long-term ambitions are indistinguishable from those of Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
Hamas will now focus on its next goal -- trying to strengthen its presence in the West Bank and eventually toppling the Palestinian Authority from power there, just as it did in Gaza. If Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank, Hamas would certainly find such a goal easier to accomplish.
Nothing keeps the flames of jihad alight, and Hamas's popularity secure, like frequent wars.