BY MICHAEL KAPLAN
A synagogue in Marseille is expected to be converted into a mosque, underscoring changing demographics in France, Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday. The Or Thora synagogue was purchased by Al Badr, a Muslim cultural association, a Jewish leader told the news agency.
"For the past 20 years or so we have seen the shift of the Jewish community to other neighborhoods," said Zvi Ammar, a top Jewish leader. "We all have the same God; the main thing is for this to proceed in harmony."
The plans are meant to accommodate a growing Muslim population. Marseille, a Mediterranean port city of about 850,000, has a population of some 220,000 Muslims. About 70,000 people out of that population are believed to actively practice their religion. Al Badr already runs a mosque in Marseille, but its members have reportedly outgrown the space.
France had an estimated population of 568,000 Muslims in 1990. The population today has reached some 4.7 million, Pew reported.
The local Jewish community is also thriving, but it has moved to different areas. There are an estimated 70,000 Jews in the city, making it one of the largest Jewish communities in the country. Marseille’s number of synagogues nearly doubled from 32 to 58 in the last three decades, Ammar said.
To meet the needs of a growing Muslim population, a massive mosque project is planned in Marseille. The structure, promised by the mayor in 2001, is projected to cost some $26 million but has faced financial setbacks and legal challenges, mainly by far-right wing groups. If the mosque plans pull through, it would be the country’s largest.
The Muslim community in France has come under growing scrutiny since terrorist attacks in Paris in January and November 2015. The November massacre, which left 130 people dead, was claimed by the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, where more than a thousand French Muslims are thought to have traveled to fight.
Muslim leaders nationwide were quick to condemn the violence. Both Muslims and Jews have reported a rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic incidents in recent years.
Source : http://www.ibtimes.com