In a Strasbourg mosque, the often-uneasy French mix with Muslim neighbors

Edward Cody, Washington Post, Mar.07

One woman asked why Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, changes dates every year. Then came a question about how Muslims calculate that the world is entering the year 1434.

For Abdelrahman Binjalloun, a Moroccan-born pharmacist who doubles as a guide, the questions were routine. Since it was inaugurated in September after a three-decade controversy — and even while it was under construction — the Great Mosque of Strasbourg has become a tourist site, a destination for school excursions and a meeting place where often-uneasy French people come face to face with their increasingly numerous Muslim neighbors.

Such coming together is not the norm in France, whose army has been dispatched to Mali to destroy bands of radical Islamists who hold 15 French citizens hostage. At home, the country’s Christian traditions have been rubbed the wrong way by a Muslim minority that is often so concentrated in certain suburban neighborhoods that veils are common and Arabic is more spoken than French.

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