French Muslims celebrated a milestone on Thursday when work began to build a Grand Mosque in Marseille, the country'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 and local politicians hailed as "historic" the laying of the mosque's 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 metres (82 feet) high, the Grand Mosque will hold up to 7,000 people in its prayer room and the complex will also boast a Koranic school, library, restaurant and tea room when it opens in 2012.
Muslims in Marseille have long campaigned for a mega-mosque as a prominent gathering place that would bring Islam out of the basements and allow it to thrive under the Mediterranean sun.
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
Source: France24 (English)
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