French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Monday attends the inauguration of a large Algerian mosque near Paris, in a move seen as a public effort at a rapprochement with a religion whose relationship with the French state is at breaking point.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon is expected on Monday to open a huge new mosque in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil, home to some 28,000 Muslims.
It is the first time in the history of the French 5th Republic (since 1958) that a prime pinister of this rigidly secular state has attended such an inauguration.
The Al-Ihsan mosque, built on the site of a disused Renault factory, was bought by an Algerian businessman 20 years ago. Its imams will be appointed by Algiers.
The building can hold up to 2,500 worshippers and includes a Koranic school.
Fillon will be accompanied by Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, whose portfolio of responsabilities includes France’s diverse religions, as well as immigration.
France’s largely Muslim immigrants have been in the spotlight politically, with government moves to ban the full Islamic veil in public places and after a disastrous debate on French "national identity” which has exposed anti-Islam sentiment in France.
Some 800 dignitaries have been invited to attend the opening, in which Fillon will talk about the importance of Islam as the country’s “second religion”.
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