18 January 2011 With French Muslims praying in the streets and in basements around the country, and with the far-right in France is targeting mosques as a treat to French identity, the Strasbourg city council unanimously approved Monday the creation of two new mosques in the city, including one with a minaret, according to the vice-mayor in charge of religious affairs, Oliver Bitz. The Muslim Association of Alsace has welcomed the move, heralding the decision as the "Islam of cellars" in Strasbourg. The mosque with a minaret would be constructed in the neighborhood of Hautepierre, and will accommodate about 600 to 800 people who presently gather in a disused supermarket. The cost of building the mosque would be 2.24 million euros, on a plot of 23 acres. A smaller mosque is also to be built in the neighborhood of Robertsau. This mosque will cost 846,900 euros, and be built on an area of 11 acres. In total, the mayor will spend a budget of 300,000 euros to build the two mosques. A field will be made available to organizations carrying projects under long lease, which can give the usufruct of a property for a very long time. The mayor also will subsidize up to 10% the work of the two mosques. "We also apply the scheme to denominations which do not historically form a part of the French religious landscape. There is need to reconcile policy with the principle of equality," he said. The approval of the establishment of the two mosques comes at the same time as the construction of an Orthodox church in the city. A decision like this had not been passed since the defeat of the left in the 2001 municipal elections, "though the need was huge," said Bitz. About 10% of the population of Strasbourg is Muslim , he said. Elected representatives praised the "responsibility of the opposition", which approved the text, while noting that "all projects (places of worship) were blocked by the municipality before," directed by Fabienne Keller ( UMP). In a statement, officials at the Grand Mosque of Strasbourg - which is itself presently undergoing expansion - thanked the Mayor of Strasbourg Roland Ries (PS) for his "courageous policy to treat Islam with equity".
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