When foreigners think of the French city of Marseille they think of the national anthem, of Renoir sketching the old port in slashes of yellow and blue, and of castles and cafes overlooking the water. But the old port will now be overshadowed by a Grand Mosque.
The Grand Mosque project has cast a shadow over Marseille since 1989; its location on the site of a former slaughterhouse where pigs were once butchered and the Saudi money going into the project has only given the whole affair a more ominous air. The prolonged legal battle over its construction has gone on through the years even as Islamic terrorism in Marseille has grown to dangerous proportions.
In 1994, Marseille was where the Christmas Hijacking of Air France Flight 8969 came to its bloody end. Muslim terrorists from the Armed Islamic Group had hijacked the plane on Christmas Eve shouting “Allah Akbar” and informing the passengers that this particular deity had chosen them to wage war in his name. The terrorists forced the stewardesses to veil themselves with cabin blankets, recited verses from the Koran and murdered a number of passengers.
But the Armed Islamic Group had bigger plans than a few burkas and a few murders. Their plan was to ram Air France Flight 8969 directly into the Eiffel Tower. Marseille was supposed to be a refueling stopover before a final fatal flight to Paris, but with no sign of the extra fuel that would allow them to inflict maximum damage, the terrorists tried to kill a member of the crew who had told them he was an atheist. Instead French authorities took down the terrorists and prevented an earlier French version of September 11.
Islamic terror however wasn’t done with Marseille or the Eiffel Tower. More recently French authorities broke up another terrorist ring which had targeted the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. The Grand Mosque of Marseille is a more indirect form of architectural attack. Rather than blow up Marseille‘s Notre-Dame de la Garde church, considered by Catholics to be the guardian and protectress of the city, it will overshadow it instead.
Between a quarter and a third of Marseille’s residents are Muslim and demographics suggest that the city may be on its way to becoming the first majority Muslim city in Europe. Marseille’s coat of arms may still bear the azure cross, but not for long. There are already 60 mosques in the city, but many of them are underground. When it is completed, the Grand Mosque will act as a claim of ownership to the city.
Muslims had attacked the port city in the 9th century capturing it and enslaving its native inhabitants. That which Muslims once took, their theologians insist is theirs in perpetuity. The Muslim return to Marseille is seen as a reconquista, a return to the land that was once theirs. Building a mega mosque is a way of sealing the deal and making it clear to any infidels that the religion of peace is back with a vengeance.
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