French imams preach against vi­o­lence as prayers fo­cus on ter­ror mas­sacre

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

PARIS: Mosques across France held their weekly ser­vices yes­ter­day in the shadow of last week’s Paris mas­sacre by Is­lamist mil­i­tants, with ser­mons re­ject­ing vi­o­lence and ask­ing how some rad­i­cal French Mus­lims could sup­port it.

Be­fore dawn, the govern­ment’s an­nounced crack­down on rad­i­cal preach­ers led to a search of a mosque in the west coast city of Brest, known for its imam’s hard­line views, but po­lice found no ev­i­dence of any­thing il­le­gal.

The Grand Mosque of Paris called off a planned rally against ter­ror­ism there, due to be held af­ter mid­day prayers and at­tended by the city’s mayor Anne Hi­dalgo, be­cause po­lice said they could not as­sure its se­cu­rity.

In an un­usual step, the French Coun­cil of the Mus­lim Faith ( CFCM) – the main um­brella group for mosque as­so­ci­a­tions – and sev­eral of its mem­ber groups urged their imams to de­nounce the at­tacks in their ser­mons and dis­trib­uted sug­gested texts.

France’s five mil­lion-strong Mus­lim mi­nor­ity is the largest in Europe and about 8 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

“These crim­i­nal acts were per­pe­trated by chil­dren of France who claim to fol­low Is­lam and con­sider them­selves mar­tyrs in a ji­hadist en­ter­prise,” said the khutba (ser­mon) in French dis­trib­uted by the CFCM to be read in all af­fil­i­ated mosques.

“We must never tire of say­ing and re­peat­ing that au­then­tic Is­lam is light years away from the hate­ful ide­ol­ogy of these ter­ror­ist crim­i­nals.

“They are the khawarij (rebels) of mod­ern times,” it added, com­par­ing the killers to vi­o­lent ex­trem­ists in early Is­lam who fought against the faith’s recog­nised lead­ers.

The CFCM ser­mon said French Mus­lims “pro­claim our full sup­port for the val­ues of the repub­lic” and prayed to God “to pre­serve and bless France”.

Texts dis­trib­uted by CFCM mem­ber or­gan­i­sa­tions in­cluded re­li­gious ar­gu­ments against vi­o­lence and dis­cus­sions of prob­lems fac­ing French Mus­lims.

Re­ject­ing the sim­ple re­sponse that the killers were not gen­uine Mus­lims, the text for imams in Lyon said: “Good­will is not enough, nor are nice speeches.”

Imams had to un­der­stand mod­ern French so­ci­ety and in­ter­pret the Qur’anto make it rel­e­vant to to­day’s Mus­lims, it said, and the­olo­gians must do more to re­fute Is­lamic State’s ide­ol­ogy.

The govern­ment must also help French Mus­lims by sup- port­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion for imams and hir­ing more Is­lamic chap­lains for pris­ons, it added.

The Union of French Mosques, a net­work mostly for be­liev­ers of Moroc­can ori­gin, said French Mus­lims should hold ral­lies and meet­ings with other faiths to counter “Is­lamic State’s ef­forts to find among the French sup­port for their lost cause”.

The mosque search in Brest, on the far north-western tip of France, fol­lowed a pledge by the govern­ment to shut down mosques that preach hate.

The mosque’s imam, Rachid Abou Houdeyfa, has gained no­to­ri­ety for videos of his ser­mons on YouTube, in­clud­ing one where he tells chil­dren mu­sic is for­bid­den and those who lis­ten to it will be “turned into mon­keys and pigs”.

Sev­eral dozen po­lice on the search found noth­ing il­le­gal and no­body was in­ter­ro­gated, lo­cal of­fi­cials said.

The search il­lus­trated the dif­fi­cul­ties of­fi­cials will have track­ing rad­i­cal preach­ers be­cause some es­pouse what main­stream Mus­lims would con­sider ex­treme re­li­gious views but re­ject vi­o­lence. Houdeyfa has pub­licly de­nounced the Paris mas­sacre.

“The search was con­ducted… in a full re­spect of the place of wor­ship and with­out any in­ci­dent”, Houdeyfa said in a state­ment.

French me­dia have re­ported mosque searches in sev­eral other lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing in the Paris and Lyon ar­eas, as po­lice use their pow­ers un­der the state of emer­gency to check on lo­cal con­gre­ga­tions. – Reuters

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