A conflict of interests between the Muslim community and the rest of the world is once again at the forefront of heated discussion as Muslim leaders this week called for the number of mosques in France to be doubled just three months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, declared that the 2,200 mosques already established within France need to be doubled within the next two years. While this announcement was warmly received by applauding French Muslims, the same however cannot be said for the rest of its population – with many insisting that no possible good can come from this development.
Such an announcement comes at a time when many Muslims believe local authorities in France are deliberately ignoring their proposals to open more mosques and prayer-rooms – leading to a growing resentment within the Islam community. According to French Muslim leaders however, doubling the number of mosques within France is exactly what the country needs. In creating a greater space for Muslims to develop and learn, leaders believe that there will be more opportunity to encourage the future Muslim generation to channel their beliefs through reason and understanding and not extremity- thus combating Islam radicalism once and for all.
However, for the conservative daily Le Figaro paper, Dr Boubakeur and other “mainstream” Muslim leaders have already “lost control” of increasingly radical young French Muslims and “it is not the mass construction of new mosques that will change things.”
Earlier on this year, Conservative parliamentarian Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi confidently voiced, “we will all fight extremism better if we all feel like we are all in the same team.” Under this creed, the French government therefore faces the struggle of finding a way to appeal to the needs of the Muslim community while also catering to those of the overall French population.
In the aftermath of the ruthless attacks carried out by Muslims – most notably the Charlie Hebdo shootings of this year – it is impossible to deny that Muslims across the world have been placed under increased scrutiny and suspicion. Yet as David Cameron so rightly put it – ISIS Militants “are monsters, not Muslims.”
One anonymous resident from Harrow said: “Unfortunately the extremist acts of the minority has led to a society in France where Muslims overall – for the moment at least – are painted with the same brush as those who have wreaked political disorder through their inhumane acts.
“Until a sense of faith in the Islam community can be restored – apprehension and fear is what is to be expected. ”
An anonymous resident from Wellingborough added: “The French population need to feel safe again in their own country and building more mosques isn’t going to achieve this since many are fearful of further radicalisation. On the other hand, given the high volume of Muslims in Europe, I think many may feel like they are putting themselves in danger by standing up against the building of more mosques. So it is a conflicting situation. ”
Commentator Yves Threard said French Muslim leaders had “no one but themselves to blame” as they had only whole-heartedly condemned violence after the January shootings.
He added: “Their disorganization, their rivalries and their silence are guilty and they explain, in part, the growing influence of the most fanatical ideas.”
Another anonymous resident from Stanmore built upon this in saying: “It is not the mosques themselves that are feared but what is being taught within them. There is no control and this lack of control is what scares society.”
However, for a 23-year-old Muslim student from Wembley, both the Muslim community and the rest of the world share an equally important responsibility when it comes to such a sensitive issue.
She said: “The real solution is for youths to be educated on what Islam really teaches. But in order for this to be achieved, the leaders in the mosques have to know the values first so as to properly preach them.
“Conversely, the media has to change too. It is constantly attacking Islam and it needs to stop. I think that is partly the reason why youths retaliate the way that they do.”
She added: “It seems like a vicious cycle but at the end of the day I am a young practicing Muslim and I don’t see why I should be made to feel like I should apologize for the actions of other Muslims with whom I have no connection.”