Its towering minaret, which has purposely been designed to change the suburb’s skyline by being taller than any church steeple in the neighborhood, is supposed to become the “new symbol of Islam in France.”
The Socialist government in France has inaugurated a new mega-mosque in Paris as a first step towards “progressively building a French Islam.”
The new mosque, located in the northern Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise, is not only vast in its dimensions (photo here), but is also highly visible and symbolic: its towering minaret, which has purposely been designed to change the suburb’s skyline by being taller than any church steeple in the neighborhood, is supposed to become the “new symbol of Islam in France.”
The blue-domed mega-mosque also has an important political dimension. French President François Hollande owes his May 6 electoral victory to the large turnout by Muslim voters, who cast the deciding votes that propelled Hollande into the Élysée Palace. It is now political payback time, and the mosque at Cergy is one of at least 150 new mosque projects that the Socialist government has pledged to support.
Speaking on behalf of President Hollande at the inauguration ceremony of the mosque in Cergy, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls articulated the Socialist government’s policy vis-à-vis the construction of new mosques in France. He declared: “A mosque, when it is erected in the city, says a simple thing: Islam has its place in France.”
The 2,000 square meter (21,500 square foot) three-story mega-mosque in Cergy can accommodate up to 1,500 worshippers at a time; it has two main prayer halls (one for men and one for women), ablution rooms, two kitchens, a tea room, an apartment and office for the imam, a funeral hall, classrooms and a multipurpose room.