MARSEILLE - An appeals court has granted permission for the construction of a grand mosque in France's second-largest city of Marseille to meet the religious needs of the sizable minority.
The case was in the hands of the courts, we had total confidence, Abderrahman Ghoul, the head of the Marseille Mosque association, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Muslims have planned to build a grand mosque in Marseille's northern Saint-Louis area.
The mosque was granted a permit in September 2009 but construction was suspended following complaints from local residents and businesses.
A community association led by a local butcher had filed a complaint against the mosque on claims that the Muslim worship place did not fit with the surrounding urban environment.
In October, Marseille's administrative tribunal cancelled the mosque's construction permit for supposed failures to meet urban-planning requirements.
But this verdict was overturned by the appeals court on Tuesday, July 19, allowing Muslims to go ahead with plans to build the grand mosque.
The appeals court in December also rejected complaints against the mosque filed by France's National Front (FN) party and another far-right group.
Ghoul described Tuesday's court verdict as very good news.
The ruling, however, could still be appealed to the State Council, France's highest administrative legal authority.
The 22-million-euro ($28-million) project would see the Grand Mosque, boasting a minaret soaring 25-metres (82-feet) high and room for up to 7,000 worshippers.
The mosque's minaret would flash a beam of purple light instead of Adhan to call for prayers.
The project's architect, Maxime Repaux, said the mosque construction was expected to start in the beginning of 2013.
Marseille is home to an estimated 250,000 Muslims, many of whom flock to makeshift prayer houses in basements, rented rooms and dingy garages to worship.
France is home to a sizable minority of six million Muslims, the largest in Europe.
Marseille regional authorities, who backed the mosque project, also hailed the court verdict as important for the city's Muslims.
The Grand Mosque of Marseille will finally offer a place of worship worthy of the name to the Muslims of the Marseille urban area, who have been waiting for a long time, said Eugene Caselli, the head of the regional MPM authority.
Muslims now hope that the court verdict would help raise funds for the grand mosque.
With the approval of the construction permit and the door that is opening today, we will be able to rebuild confidence with donors, Ghoul said.
Only 200,000 euros worth of donations have so far been collected for the 22-million-euro project.
Algeria, the Maghreb in general, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others could join us. French Muslims complain that they lack enough mosques, forcing them to pray on the street.
French Muslims complain that they lack enough mosques, forcing them to pray on the street.
They have only 1,500 prayer houses, most of which are housed in small, modest halls, often described as "basement mosques."
In Paris, where the Muslim population is denser than elsewhere in France, there is only one grand mosque, the Great Mosque of Paris, far away from immigrant-heavy neighborhoods.
French Muslims complain of major difficulties to build mosques, including funding and public opposition to mosque construction.An IFOP poll showed that support for building mosques fell to 20 percent in 2009 from 31 percent in 2000.