Grand Mosque of Marseille gets green light after court case
PARIS - A French court on Tuesday gave the green light for the construction of a mega mosque in the city of Marseille, following years of delays caused by challenges from residents and local businesses.
The Grand Mosque of Marseille is set to be France's biggest, with the capacity for 14,000 worshippers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The cornerstone was laid in a pomp-filled ceremony in spring 2010 but the project quickly ground to a halt after a group of businesses and residents in the Saint-Louis district, where it is being built, challenged the construction permit.
Butcher Pierre Metras, who led the campaign against the mosque, said the project threatened the economic and social fabric of the neighborhood.
In October 2011, Marseille's administrative tribunal invalidated the construction permit, citing concerns over its failure to provide adequate parking.
On Tuesday an appeals court overturned that decision on the advice of an independent magistrate, after the city approved the construction of a car park.
Several large mosques are planned around France, which has Europe's biggest Muslim community, estimated at between 5 million and 6 million people, but which is critically short on purpose-built mosques.
Many Muslims currently pray in makeshift mosques in garages and basements or in rented rooms.