In June, former CFCM president Dalil Boubakeur suggested turning abandoned churches into mosques. “It’s a delicate issue but why not,” he said. However, responding to immediate criticism and questioning, the CFCM issued a statement the same day: “There is no wish or intention for this type of project…The Church of France is the sole authority able to dispose of religious buildings.”
However, in a recent issue of Valeurs actuelles Denis Tillinac writes “hands off my church!” Denouncing Boubakeur’s suggestion as one that “extremely offends Catholics,” the piece begins by highlighting the danger of “amalgamations” during “a time when Islamist terrorism is bloodying the planet and committing crimes right in Paris.”
“A church is not a mosque, and to claim that ‘the rights are the same’ reveals a shocking denial of reality,” he writes.
Metronews spoke with the CFCM’s new president Anouar Kbibech.
Q: Were you consulted or warned about the article’s publication?
A: Not at all, you were the first one to tell me about it. Last night I met Nicolas Sarkozy at the Grand Mosque of Paris for the break-fast of Ramadan, but he never spoke to me about it.
Q: Do you think it’s necessary to bring up the debate again?
A: For us, the subject is closed. The rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, himself denied the idea, specifying that it was a misunderstanding during the interview. The CFCM has also stated that using churches for Muslims to worship, if it happens in some places, is a fraternal gesture, but it’s not a solution.
Q: How do you respond to the article’s title, and the reference to Islamist terrorism in the first line?
A: The tone is strong, but we are in a country of freedom of expression, I respect his comments. But I repeat: for us, Muslims, the subject is already closed.
Q: According to you, what is the solution for the dearth of mosques in France?
A: It’s up to Muslims to take charge. There was, at a given moment, a desire to carry out the projects because the need was so great. But they were impossible to finance, or relied on foreign funding. The time of “mosque-cathedrals” is thankfully behind us. Today, Muslims are committed to carrying out projects on a lesser scale, within reason, that are financed by the worshipers themselves.
Q: How do you fight resistance against the construction of new mosques?
A: In addition to focusing on building mosques of a reasonable size, it’s also necessary that they fit within the French architectural tradition. Just as it is important that Islam integrates itself into the Republic, mosques must also incorporate themselves into the urban landscape around them.