In a ceremony attended by Muslim, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Buddhist leaders, the centre-right mayor of Marseille Jean-Claude Gaudin allocated a plot of land for the mosque, paving the way for the project to begin, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"We wanted to perform this act of justice towards our Muslim compatriots in Marseille, to allow them to build a place of worship like all the other major religions in Marseille," said Gaudin.
It was also about catching up with other major cities such as Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg, which either have or plan to build Great Mosques, he said.
While Marseille's Muslim minority is estimated at around 200,000 people the city's 62 places of worship provide room for only around 13,000.
Marseille city hall finally decided to break the deadlock and provide the land for the project after most of the city's Muslim groups and trends rallied around the project.
Under an agreement to be finalized on July 17, Marseille will make available an 8,000 square-meter (two acre) plot of land in the north of the city to the association in charge of the project, on a 99-year lease.
The plot of land, the site of a former slaughterhouse, is currently used by a company of opera costume designers.
The 2,500-square-metre mosque — to be adapted from the existing buildings in a simple, modern style — will provide room for up to 5,000 faithful, according to architect Abdelouahab Khelif.
The first plans for a great mosque in Marseille go back to the 1930s, according to AFP, but the project repeatedly floundered due to divisions within the city's Muslim minority, as well as a degree of resistance from the local population.
Construction work is not expected to start now, since the Muslim minority has yet to start collecting the eight to 10 million euros (10 to 13 million dollars) needed for the project.
The money must come from private donations since the French government cannot finance places of worship under laws on the separation of church and state.
"It is going to take time," said Abdou Diarra, treasurer of the association in charge f the mosque construction work.
Foreign contributions will be tightly monitored and limited to 20 or 30 percent of the total, in order to prevent any single country asserting too much influence over the project, he said.
Many mosques in France are affiliated either to the different Muslim communities in the European country or their countries of origin.
Paris Mosque, for instance, has indirect links to the Algerian government, while others are known for their affiliations with Morocco or Gulf states.
In March last year, France's major Islamic groups and then Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin gave the go-ahead for establishing the Foundation for Islamic Works with the aim of financing the construction of mosques and development of other Islamic activities in France.
A French book published in 2004 highlighted the history of mosques in France, particularly in the northern Alsace area.
Titled "Histoires de Mosquees," the book takes the readers back to the early stage of construction of mosques in France in 1960s.
France is home to around six million Muslims, the largest Muslim minority in Europe.Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16