While in this region of the south of France one cannot avoid the force of the Old Winds –
the katabatic Mistral that blows up to 100 days a year and keeps cyclists and joggers indoors. It’s blowing forcefully right now as the sun shines gloriously. The Mistral is a fixture here and has swept up numerous legends and lores in its path. The BBC Weather page for the Mistral notes that “Locals claim that a sudden feeling of dejection sweeps through them just before the Mistral arrives; once the wind gets up, depression gives way to headaches and irritability.” (Ah! I say. Explains the temperaments of people around me this past day.)
About an hour from here another wind is blowing through France at the same time, one that has been whipping up equally forceful reactions. In 2001 the Mayor of Marseille, Jean-Claude Gaudin, publicly lent his support to the building of a grand mosque in Marseille. On 6 Nov 2009 the green light was given for the building. The grand mosque has been scheduled to start construction on 21 April 2010 with its doors opening to welcome Eid in November 2011. It will house the largest prayer hall in France – capable of holding up to 7,000 worshippers, and it promises a minaret towering up to 25 metres. It will also house a library, an amphitheatre, a restaurant and a school. It is a mosque Marseille’s 200,000 Muslims are looking forward to. But in these times when the Swiss vote against minarets and the UK government is publicly announcing plans to racially profile travellers as part of enhanced airport security, we can be assured that there will probably be *some* resistance to the building of the grand mosque in Marseille.
Le Front National (founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1972) is the most visible opponent to the building of the grand mosque. A party close to the heart of the UK’s BNP (read here for Le Pen and his position on the Holocaust), Le Front’s main stand is that the grand mosque will be an affront to French national identity, further remarking that the majority of French citizens oppose the building of minarets in France. They have demanded a referendum to decide on the construction of the grand mosque. French Muslims are determined to push forward with building plans.
Find out more about the grand mosque from the official website.