Macron visits Paris mosque to mark its 100th anniversary

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French President Emmanuel Macron, center, arrives to visit an exposition for the century commemoration of the Grande Mosquee of Paris opening, next to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, second left, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, third left, and Franco-Algerian lawyer and Rector of Paris' Grand Mosque Chems-eddine Hafiz, right, in Paris, Wednesday Oct. 19, 2022. (Ludovic Marin/Pool via AP)

PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron visited Paris’ central mosque on Wednesday to mark 100 years since it was built -- a presidential stop to project that the French leader is representing all factions of French society, united under one secular republic.

The visit comes just months after his reelection in April in which debates about the Muslim veil and the role of Islam in secular France — home to Western Europe's biggest Muslim population — became a political hot potato. The centrist won his second term against the far-right, anti-Islam candidate Marine Le Pen.

During the afternoon ceremony, which was attended by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and Army Minister Sebastien Lecornu, Macron unveiled a plaque marking France’s “recognition” for its Muslim soldiers.

The Great Mosque of Paris was built in honor of the 70,000 Muslims who died for France during World War I.

Macron also decorated Grand Mosque Rector Chems-Eddine Hafiz with the insignia of the Legion of Honor, France's highest civilian honor.