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The New Arab

Saudi mosque opens in Nice after 15 year battle

The construction of the Mosque began in 2003

Date of publication: 3 July, 2016

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A mosque funded by Saudi Arabia has finally opened its doors to worshippers in Nice on Saturday after 15 years of conflict with an adamant ex-mayor.
A Saudi-funded mosque has officially opened in France's Nice after a 15-year battle with the local town hall.

The Nicois En-nour Institute Mosque finally received permission to open its doors on Saturday after the appointment of a new town mayor replacing Christian Estrosi.

Estrosi relentlessly rejected the construction of the mosque and had even secured the green light to take the French state to court in a bid to stop its opening in the southern city.

He accused the building's owner, Saudi Arabia's Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Saleh bin Abdulaziz, of "advocating sharia" and wanting to "destroy all of the churches on the Arabian peninsula".

Estrosi, mayor since 2008, said that the project, which was initiated under his predecessor in 2002, was unauthorised.

"Our intelligence services are worried about this place of worship," said the ex-mayor, who represents France's centre-right The Republicans party, warning against "unregulated foreign funding".

However the establishment of the new institute was welcomed by Ouassini Meberek, a lawyer and head of a local religious association who described it as "a real joy".

"But there is no smug triumphalism," he told AFP. "This is recognition of the law, and a right to freely practice one's religion in France in accordance with the values of French Republic."

Ten Muslim faithful entered the mosque's basement, which can hold 880 worshippers, for evening prayers.

"A Muslim prefers the house of God to his own home, provided it is beautiful," said Abdelaziz, one of the first worshippers who entered the mosque with his son.

"Today we are happy," Amaria, a mother from neighbouring Moulins said. "Happy and relieved to have found this place.... We are tired of hiding ourselves, we aren't mice!"

The construction of the Mosque began in 2003.

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