Algeria to inaugurate Bouteflika-era mega mosque

Algeria to inaugurate Bouteflika-era mega mosque
1 / 4
The great mosque of Algiers, the third largest in the world and the most monumental in Africa, will be inaugurated on Wednesday during a first collective prayer. (AFP)
Algeria to inaugurate Bouteflika-era mega mosque
2 / 4
This picture shows the Great Mosque of Algiers, also known as Djamaa el Djazair, in Algiers on October 27, 2020. (AFP)
Algeria to inaugurate Bouteflika-era mega mosque
3 / 4
The Great Mosque of Algiers, also known as Djamaa el-Djazair, on the eve of its inauguration in the Algerian capital. (AFP)
Algeria to inaugurate Bouteflika-era mega mosque
4 / 4
This picture shows the Great Mosque of Algiers, also known as Djamaa el Djazair, in Algiers on October 27, 2020. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 28 October 2020

Algeria to inaugurate Bouteflika-era mega mosque

Algeria to inaugurate Bouteflika-era mega mosque
  • Known locally as the Djamaa El-Djazair, it is smaller only than the two holy mosques in Makkah and Madinah
  • To its critics, the mosque is a vanity project and a symbol of the megalomania of former autocrat Bouteflika

ALGIERS: Algeria’s Grand Mosque, the world’s third-biggest and Africa’s largest, will host its first public prayers on Wednesday, a year and a half after construction was completed.
Known locally as the Djamaa El-Djazair, the modernist structure extends across 27.75 hectares (almost 70 acres), and is smaller only than the two mosques in Makkah and Madinah, Islam’s holiest sites, in Saudi Arabia.
To its critics, the mosque is a vanity project and a symbol of the megalomania of former autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced out in April last year after mass street protests against his two-decade-long rule.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune had been expected to inaugurate the mosque’s prayer hall — whose maximum capacity is 120,000 — at the event on Wednesday, the eve of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
But his presence was in doubt after his office announced the day before that he had been hospitalized.


Tebboune had gone into self-isolation last week following suspected coronavirus cases among his aides, but the presidency said Tuesday that Tebboune’s “state of health does not raise any concern.”
It was unclear how many people would be allowed to attend the prayers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The mosque’s interior, in Andalusian style, is decorated in wood, marble and alabaster.
It features six kilometers (3.7 miles) of Qur'anic text in Arabic calligraphy, along with turquoise prayer mats.
The mosque aims to be an important theological, cultural and research center, and the complex includes a library that can host a million books.
Featuring geometric architecture, it also boasts the world’s tallest minaret — 267 meters (875 feet) — fitted with elevators and a viewing platform that looks out over the capital and the Bay of Algiers.
The tallest such structure had previously been a 210-meter minaret in the Moroccan city of Casablanca.


But it has all come at a cost of over $1 billion in public money, according to finance ministry figures.
The seven-year construction work was completed in April 2019, three years behind schedule, and the company in charge, China State Construction Engineering (CSCEC), brought in laborers from China.
“There is a mosque in almost every neighborhood,” said Said Benmehdi, an Algiers resident in his seventies, whose two children are both unemployed.
He told AFP bitterly that he would have preferred for the “state to build factories and let young people work.”
Five imams preside over the mosques and five muezzins are responsible for conducting the call to prayer, said Kamel Chekkat, a member of Algeria’s ulema association of Muslim scholars.
He told AFP that the mosque would be tasked with “regulating and harmonizing fatwas with Algerian life.”
A multidisciplinary study and research group will examine the Qur'anic text and “its keeping with the times and above all, with science,” he added.
“The idea is that the Grand Mosque will be a place for combatting all types of radicalism, religious and secular,” Chekkat said.
But sociologist Belakhdar Mezouar said the mosque “was not built for the people.”
It is the “work of a man (Bouteflika) who wanted to compete with neighboring Morocco, make his name eternal and put this construction on his CV, so he could get into paradise on judgment day,” he said, adding that his opinion was widely shared.
Nadir Djermoune, who teaches town planning, criticized the “ostentatious choice” of such mega projects at a time when he said Algeria needed new health, education, sporting and recreational facilities.
The mosque is “isolated from the real needs of the city in terms of infrastructure,” he said.
The most positive point, he said, was its modernist concept, which “will serve as a model for future architectural projects.”


Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic

Updated 05 December 2020

Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic

Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic
  • More than 567,000 voters will be eligible to choose among the 326 candidates contesting the vote
  • Kuwait has a lively political life with a parliament elected for four-year terms

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait is holding parliamentary elections Saturday under the shadow of Covid-19, with facilities laid on for citizens infected with the disease to vote in special polling stations.
The oil-rich country has enforced some of the strictest regulations in the Gulf to combat the spread of the coronavirus, imposing a months-long nationwide lockdown earlier this year.
But while some curbs have eased, over-the-top election events that traditionally draw thousands for lavish banquets are out, masks remain mandatory and temperature checks are routine when venturing outdoors.
Infected people or those under mandatory quarantine are usually confined to home, with electronic wristbands monitoring their movements.
But in an effort to include all constituents, authorities have designated five schools — one in each electoral district — where they can vote, among the 102 polling stations across the country.
Election officials are expected to be in full personal protective equipment.
Kuwait has a lively political life with a parliament elected for four-year terms that enjoys wide legislative powers.
Political disputes are often fought out in the open.
Parties are neither banned nor recognized, but many groups — including Islamists — operate freely as de facto parties.
But with more than 143,917 coronavirus cases to date, including 886 deaths, the election campaign has been toned down this year.

A worker cleans desks at a polling station ahead of parliamentary elections in Abdullah Salem, Kuwait, on December 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee)

The polls, which open at 8:00 a.m. (0500 GMT), will be the first since the new emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, took office in September following the death of his half-brother, 91-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.
But with the opposition weakened in recent years, no major political shifts are expected.
A few electoral banners dotted through the streets have been the only reminder of the nation’s political calendar.
Instead, this year’s campaign has mainly been fought on social networks and in the media.
More than 567,000 Kuwaiti voters will be eligible to choose among the 326 candidates contesting the vote, including 29 women.
Ahmad Deyain, secretary general of the opposition group Kuwaiti Progressive Movement, said he expected a lower voter turnout than previous years after the dulled-down campaign.
The usual themes are a constant though, from promises to fight corruption and plans to address youth employment, to freedom of expression, housing, education and the thorny issue of the “bidoon,” Kuwait’s stateless minority.
From 2009 to 2013, and especially after the Arab Spring revolts of 2011, the country went through a period of political turmoil, with parliament and cabinets dissolved several times after disputes between lawmakers and the ruling family-led government.
“Kuwait is still undergoing a political crisis since 2011, and that page has not yet turned,” Deyain told AFP.
“There are still disputes over the electoral system and mismanagement of state funds.
Deyain said he expected some parliamentarians in the new National Assembly to be “more dynamic” in trying to resolve some issues.
Kuwait was the first Gulf Arab state to adopt a parliamentary system in 1962, and women in 2005 won the right to vote and to stand for election.