Monday 8 March 2010

La Grande Mosquée de Paris

About 1,535 mosques exist in France. La Grande Mosquée de Paris ("Great Mosque of Paris"), is the largest mosque in France and the second largest in Europe. It was founded after World War I as a sign of France's gratefulness to the Muslim tirailleurs (Muslim, French soldiers) from the colonies who had fought against Germany.

Before visiting this mosque I had no idea Islam was the second religion in France, totaling about 6% of the national population. The large presence of Muslims in France began after WWII, because of an increasing foreign labor force from Maghreb. Immigrants came from nations that maintained strong ties with the French language and culture because of the legacy of past colonization. They were basically looking to be a part of the francophone culture.

These immigrants were lured by economic opportunities and supplied a pool of manpower for the labor-intensive economy during this time. They chose to settle in France and embrace citizenship. Muslims contributed noticeably to the economic expansion of France. The majority of them were blue-collar workers in manufacturing plants or construction.

What I found the most interesting was the tiled mosaics covering the walls and floors of the mosque. Each pattern is symmetrical. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of these magnificent mirrored images. I learned that these were carved by knife and individually placed by Moroccan workers. Each color tile represents an important aspect of Islamic life, such as the green represents earth, and the work of the land. This ties into the skillfulness and patience of these foreign workers.

I’m glad I got to visit the mosque because I had no idea it existed in Paris. It is a beautiful building I recommend for everyone to see. The open patio with a large fountain in the center stands as a symbol for the purity of the Islam faith. An emerald color is placed throughout the mosque adding more beauty to the experience.

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