While governments and citizens across Europe oppose minarets on their skylines, a French city is offering a rare example of accommodating its Muslims by helping build a mosque complex complete with a restaurant, bookstore, library, exhibition hall and study rooms. “We wanted the mosque to be built where everyone could see it,” Laurent Cathala, the mayor of Créteil commune in the southeastern suburbs of Paris, told the Washington Post on December 9.
“We didn’t want to hide it,” added the Socialist Party member who can watch the construction from his 11th-floor office. The nearly-finished building, with its 81-foot minaret and soaring dome, will accommodate more than 2,500 worshipers. Costing $7.4 million, it stands on a knoll overlooking Créteil’s picturesque lake, the city hall and the police station. With nearly $1.5 million help from the city council, the new mosque is coming complete with a cultural centre – the cafe, exhibition centre, bathhouse, bookstore and study rooms. It aims to meet the religious needs of Muslims who make up nearly 20 per cent of Creteil’s 88,000 population.
Cathala, who has been mayor for three decades, sees the mosque as part of the demographic evolution of the sprawling town of white high-rise apartments, glass office complexes and American-style, boxy suburban malls. “If you’re for social justice, you can’t acknowledge part of the population and not acknowledge another part – especially concerning their religion.”