In Marseille, Unease Over Mosque Project

November 26, 2009

Author: Edward Cody

Source: The Washington Post

Notre Dame de la Garde, an elegant Roman Catholic basilica, has stood for 150 years on a promontory just south of Marseille's Old Port, looking down protectively as fishermen push out to the sea and symbolizing the irrepressible spirit of this fabled Mediterranean city.

But a new and very different symbol is scheduled to rise soon on another promontory, this one on the north side of the Old Port. It is the $30 million Grand Mosque of Marseille, a place for the metropolitan region's more than 200,000 Muslims to gather and worship and a dramatic reminder of the Islamic heritage that is grafting itself onto France's cultural landscape.

The mosque, which at 92,500 square feet will be France's largest, has become an emblem for the many native French people who feel uncomfortable with an immigrant population that, as its numbers rise, increasingly seeks to live by its own religious and cultural rules rather than assimilate into France's long Christian tradition.