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Claiming the credit.

The third largest mosque in the world, after those at Makkah and Medina opened in Casablanca in September. Built at a cost of $500m, the task of constructing the mosque was undertaken by a workforce of 30,000 people including labourers, craftsmen, architects and engineers, using 300,000 tonnes of concrete and 700,000 square feet of marble on its exterior wall alone.

The new King Hassan II mosque boasts the highest minaret of any mosque in the world, taller even than the pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. From its 700 foot tip, a green laser beam of light directed towards Makkah, shines out for a distance of more than 18 miles.

Its main hall is capable of accommodating some 25,000 worshippers, who will spread their prayer mats on a green and yellow marble floor, illuminated by 50 Venetian crystal candelabras each weighing round a ton.

At first sight, the mosque appears to have risen from the sea. The decision to locate it on the shoreline, inspired by the Koranic verse which states "And the throne of God was on water". Its exterior walls are clad in pale marble, while inside elaborate and colourful carved and painted ceilings are supported by columns of pink granite. At the touch of a button the 1,000 ton central section of the roof slides back in two halves to reveal the open sky above.

"It's pure Hollywood", remarked one visiting journalist. Hollywood or not the King Hassan H mosque is undoubtedly an impressive edifice. In addition to its magnificent structural achievements the mosque boasts a series of high tech gadgets such as a satellite link between its own archive department and some of the world's best stocked libraries.

King Hassan has revealed that the mosque will, on his death serve as his mausoleum. This revelation has prompted the question is the multi-million dollar mosque merely an attempt by the monarch to outshine his father King Muhammad, who built a massive shrine to himself in Rabat? Is the mosque a monument to the Moroccan ruler's megalomania?

Morocco is not a rich oil producing state and the $500m it cost to build the King Hassan II mosque was not funded by the generosity of the ruler who gave it his name.

"Donations" have been deducted at source from the salaries of government employees.

Others have been continually petitioned by a countrywide network of special

collectors.

Even Moroccans working abroad, the majority of whom were forced to take up low paid employment there in order to feed their families have not escaped but have been relentlessly pursued for contributions towards realisation of the King's dream. As one French observer noted: "Looking at how some Morrocans are forced to five, working in low paid, often dirty jobs to eke out a living in the run down "bidonvilles" on the outskirts of Paris and other large French cities it seems criminal that they should be asked to fork out for a monument to King Hassan.

Some say King Hassan built the mosque to underline his position as sharif, a decendent of the prophet. At present Morocco enjoys political stability but neighbouring countries have been shaken by the ever present threat of rising Islamic fundamentalism and such a monument might serve as a potent reminder of the King's impeccable credentials.

There are likely to be elements of both these things in King Hassan's reasoning. He sees the mosque as his mausoleum, a monument to his reign and, almost certainly as a reminder of both his own and his country's position in the region.

A small group opposes the King's claim to be Emir al Muminin, or commander of the faithful, but it is generally acknowledge that the monarch is an important source of stability, a situation which has paid dividends in terms of encouraging business confidence in the country and tourism, two areas that even the threat of Islamic fundamentalism can wipe out, as we have witnessed in Egypt.

At the end of the day Casablanca, a commercial city with few features of fascination, boasts a magnificent new mosque.

The manner in which the funds to built it were raised should be the most controversial issue surrounding its inauguration not the King's reasoning for its construction. Casablanca is now a city which boasts one of the most impressive monuments in the Islamic world.

Hopefully, despite its name, in time it will be regarded as a monument built and paid for by the Moroccan people, many of whom could ill afford the financial contribution they were required to make.

It is to them any credit to be taken should go.
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Title Annotation:third largest mosque in Casablanca
Publication:The Middle East
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Words:771
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