Centenary of the Paris Mosque: A Franco-Algerian hold-up ...

To celebrate the hundred years of the Great Mosque of Paris, France and … Algeria are organizing a ceremony this Wednesday, October 19. This commemoration will be done in the absence of any Moroccan participation, while the Kingdom was at the very origin of the creation of this building built in 1922 in the 5th arrondissement of Paris.

The ceremony is organized on the initiative of the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, the Franco-Algerian, Chems-eddine Hafiz, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of this emblematic place, and in which the President of the French Republic, Emmauel Macron will participate. .

Everything leads to believe that the latter is apparently not aware of the history of this place, or rather closes his eyes, to obtain at all costs the sympathy of Algeria, an essential supplier of gas for France in these hard times of Russian-Ukrainian war.

Even the French press is surprised, and quite simply evokes a ” moral expropriation” flagrant, not failing to return to the history of the very construction of this emblematic place, whose original actors, namely the Moroccans, were completely excluded from this ceremony.

An oversight of history or another provocative gesture from France? We lean more towards the second choice, since the first can be even more serious. In any case, we will try in this article to remind our European neighbors of the history of this building, with supporting dates.

In 1922, Sultan Moulay Youssef ordered the start of construction work on the Paris mosque, the property of which belongs to the Society of Habous and Holy Places, founded in 1917 at the Royal Palace in Rabat. The ultimate goal of the construction of this building was to pay tribute to the 100,000 fighters of the Muslim faith who died for France during the First World War.

The intermediary in this process of construction of the mosque is none other than Hubert Lyautey who affirmed to the Sultan in a letter, the very day of the launch of the work, that his name was highly acclaimed by the assistance, noting that the the first pickaxe was given by the grand vizier El Mokri, then by the members of the various nationalities of the Muslim faith.

The Paris mosque was inaugurated four years later, in July 1926, in the presence of Sultan Moulay Youssef and the President of the Republic Gaston Doumergue. Its first rector was called Kaddour Benghabrit. Of Algerian origin, Benghabrit was naturalized Moroccan and continued his studies at Al Qaraouiyine University in Fez, before occupying various positions in the Kingdom, which allowed him to get closer to the Sultan, hence his appointment as head of the mosque in Paris.

Let’s come to the architecture of this emblematic place. Inspired by the Al Qaraouiyine Mosque in Fez and built in both the Moroccan Almohad style, the mosque was designed by architect Maurice Tranchant de Lunel, Inspector General of Fine Arts in Morocco, while the plans were executed by the architects Robert Fournez, Maurice Mantout and Charles Heubès.

Moroccan craftsmen have been dispatched specially from Fez to Paris to embellish the building and make it a unique and special place, which will forever bear a purely Moroccan touch, in particular the Zellije which adorns its various nooks and crannies.

The cultural appropriation thus undergone by the mosque of Paris on the occasion of its 100 years is not the first attempt to ” rewrite history initiated by France. After its inauguration in 1926, and even though Morocco was in the middle of a French protectorate and troubled by the agitations of the nationalists, several maneuvers were observed in this direction with the sole objective of changing the course of history, and concealing the roots Moroccans of this building.

Indeed, in 1954, François Mitterand, who was still Minister of the Interior, had estimated that the Mosque of Paris had become a “high place of Moroccan nationalism and the seat of a movement in favor of King Mohammed V, who was then in exile, and whose return the people demanded.

Thus, for France, all means are good to remove Morocco from this building which has shown a certain power and a certain energy that only Arab Muslims can feel.

After Mitterand’s coup, another French statesman continued in this same vein by appointing the Franco-Algerian, Hamza Boubakeur, as rector of the Mosque in 1957 for 25 years, i.e. until 1982.

After more than two decades at the head of the mosque, the rector’s ambitions go towards his country of origin and against the very creators of the building, trying to modify the status of the society at all costs. des Habous, founded at the Royal Palace in Rabat, suggesting that this same company was created in Algiers in 1917.

But a certain Claude Lebel, minister plenipotentiary, unmasked this appropriation of the places that Algeria was trying to make in 1962, when he addressed a letter to the French State announcing a so-called ” reappearance in Algiers of an alleged office of the Society of Habous and Holy Places, recreated from scratch for the needs of the cause – within the framework of the emergency procedure – it should also be noted the low representativeness of non-Algerian members of this office “. A “shabby” plan which was unveiled in broad daylight, according to the French press, at the end of an agreement between Hamza Boubakeur and the Algerian government.

Despite the many Algerian attempts to appropriate the mosque of Paris, which is the mosque of all Muslims, with the flagrant complicity of France, history will always remember the initiators of this great building and the parties who took part to this masquerade at all levels.

But everything is to show and dismantle that the Mosque of Paris can only be Moroccan: dahirs, history, correspondence, architecture, zellije…

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