Marseille mosque construction stirs resentment

Plans to build a grand mosque in France’s second-largest city of Marseille have set off fears. “I’m going to bomb it when it opens,” an older French man told The New York Times Monday, December 28, wishing to be unnamed.

Plans are underway to build a $33-million grand mosque in the port city in April 2010. “It’s a good symbol of assimilation,” said Noureddine Cheikh, the head of the Marseille Mosque Association.

The new worship house will have a minaret that would flash a beam of purple light, instead of Adhan, for a couple of minarets to call for prayers five times per day.

But the mosque plans have stirred opposition from far-rightists in the city, where Muslims make up a quarter of its more than 1.5 million population.

The far-right Regional Front and local politicians have filed lawsuits to block the Muslim building.

Analysts agree that the Marseille mosque opposition reflects the growing anti-Muslim sentiments in the country and across Europe. “Today in Europe the fear of Islam crystallizes all other fears,” said Vincent Geisser, a scholar of Islam and immigration at the French National Center for Scientific Research. “(Islam) is a box in which everyone expresses their fears.”