French Mus­lim leader calls for more mosques

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY FRAN­COIS BECKER

One of France’s top Mus­lim lead­ers has called for the num­ber of mosques to dou­ble over the next two years to rem­edy a short­age of places of wor­ship for the coun­try’s mil­lions of faith­ful.

Speak­ing at a week­end gath­er­ing of French Is­lamic or­ga­ni­za­tions, where par­tic­i­pants asked for re­spect in the face of a rise in anti-Mus­lim at­tacks, Dalil Boubakeur said the 2,200 mosques in the coun­try did not ad­e­quately rep­re­sent Europe’s largest Mus­lim com­mu­nity.

“We need dou­ble (that num­ber) within two years,” the head of the French Mus­lim Coun­cil and rec­tor of the Paris mosque said in the town of Le Bour­get near the cap­i­tal.

“There are a lot of prayer rooms, of un­fin­ished mosques, and there are a lot of mosques that are not be­ing built,” he added Satur­day at the Mus­lim gath­er­ing, billed as the largest in the West­ern world.

This an­nual con­ven­tion of the Union of Is­lamic Or­gan­i­sa­tions of France (UOIF), which groups to­gether more than 250 Mus­lim as­so­ci­a­tions, comes just months af­ter ji­hadist gun­men killed 17 peo­ple in and near Paris.

Since then, there has been a marked rise in Is­lam­o­pho­bia in France, with 167 acts against mosques or threats recorded in Jan­uary alone com­pared to just 14 in the same month last year.

France has long had a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with its Mus­lim mi­nor­ity cur­rently es­ti­mated at be­tween four and five mil­lion that dates back to bloody strug­gles in its for­mer North African colonies and the le­gacy of im­mi­grants trapped in some of the coun­try’s poor­est dis­tricts.

Long decades of in­sur­gency against French rule in Al­ge­ria in the mid-twen­ti­eth cen­tury, fol­lowed by a spate of Al­ge­rian ex­trem­ist at­tacks in France in the 1990s cre­ated dif­fi­cul­ties for communal re­la­tions which reawak­ened with the rise of global ji­hadism af­ter 9/11.

Apart from phys­i­cal acts, an­tiMus­lim sen­ti­ment in the coun­try varies from may­ors re­fus­ing to have mosques built to re­sis­tance to ha­lal meals be­ing served in prisons or schools.

Par­tic­i­pants

at

the

gath­er­ing which while or­ga­nized by the UOIF, a group close to the Is­lamist Mus­lim Brotherhood, ranged from lib­eral to ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive de­nounced vi­o­lence com­mit­ted in the name of Is­lam.

“We are loyal to our coun­try, France. We love God, we love our prophet, but we also love the French Repub­lic,” said Amar Las­far, UOIF head.

Boubakeur agreed, adding nev­er­the­less that Mus­lims must also be re­spected in France.

“Is­lam is no longer an Is­lam stem­ming from im­mi­gra­tion, it is a na­tional Is­lam that has the right to the recog­ni­tion and con­sid­er­a­tion of the French pop­u­la­tion, just like other com­mu­ni­ties in France,” Boubakeur said.

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