Parliamentary Hearings Begin Examining Niqabs and Burqas in France

The French National Assembly, with the support of President Nicolas Sarkozy, recently formed a special commission on the niqab . Its first hearings will be held next week and continue throughout the month, with recommendations expected before the end of the year. Parliamentary hearings are not generally open to the public, but no decision has been made on whether the inquiry will be closed. Like the debate over the 2004 law that outlawed Muslim head scarves in French public schools, the question of the niqab broadly pits the ideal of a secular state against the equally treasured guarantees of freedom of religion and expression.

Burqa-wearing women have responded in a great deal of media. Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) has said that he prefers a “middle-road” Islam, and that “We are not asking French society to accept the burqa.”

The “Conference of French Imams” Seeks to Represent Imams

French imams have launched a new body to confront problems facing Muslim religious leaders in the European country. “It is high time for France’s imams to take the initiative in playing a genuine and effective role and filling in the gap left by Muslim groups,” said Drancy imam Hassan Chalghoumi, chairman of the “Conference of French Imams”. Launched on Thursday, June 11, the 43-member body aims to solve problems facing imams in France.
The new council has been critical of CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith), established under Sarkozy in 2003. The CFCM has come under fire for its mishandling of key Muslim issues like hijab and Islamophobia. “There is a total absence on the part of CFCM and its leader Mohamed Al-Mosawai,” Mohamed Henich, secretary general of the Union of Muslims Associations in the Seine-Saint-Denis district, said.

CFCM Condemns Protest Against Boubakeur In Front of the Paris Mosque

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil français du Culte Musulman) has firmly condemned the call to protest the Mosque of Paris’ rector and former head of the CFCM, Dalil Boubakeur, in response to his characterization of Israel in the touristic magazine, SVP-Israël.

CCFM Coordinates Memorial for Air France 447 Victims at the Paris Mosque

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CCFM) organized a memorial for the victims of the Air France 447 crash at the Mosque of Paris. Muslims also participated in an ecumenical vigil with Nicolas Sarkozy at the Notre-Dame de Paris.

Disagreements Emerge in the CFCM with the end of Ramadan

With the end of the month of Ramadan, journalist James Andre visited the hallways of the CFCM (The French Council of the Muslim Faith) and discovered an institution mired in economic problems and political divisions.

During this central month, to secure enough leadership in the every mosque – the largest in France – two Moroccan imams arrived to assist. Their arrival – along with 150 others for the month – was met with debate. Some welcomed the assistance while others wished more of them spoke French. There was other division between Moroccans and Algerians in the CFCM to decide the date of Aid el-fitr.

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Dounia Bouzar claims that to Refuse the Burqa is to Respect Islam

Dounia Bouzar, a French anthropologist who specializes in examining French-born and raised Muslims and former member of the French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM), claims that Muslim sects, particularly the conservative Salafists, take advantage of the general ignorance about Islam in France to multiply within families. Bouzar claims that these conservative Muslim groups become most powerful when they alienate individuals from those who are normally central to their socialization – their teachers, educators, parents and even, imams. Author of L’Islam, l’intégrisme et nous (Plon, 2007), Bouzar concludes that being shocked by the burqa is to respect Islam, because it means that the religious tradition does not espouse such “archaic practices”.

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Preliminary Charges In Attack on Jewish Teen in Paris

French authorities are filing preliminary charges of “attempted murder with anti-Semitic motives” against three suspects charged with beating a Jewish teenager on June 21st in Paris, who later spent two days in a coma. Libération newspaper claims that such altercations are on the rise among youth gangs in the 19th district of Paris.

The June attack was immediately condemned by President Sarkozy, who was on a three-day visit to Israel at the time and “assure[d] the victim and his family of his support and renews his total determination to fight all forms of racism and anti-Semitism.” Mohamed Moussaoui, the new president of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith) stated in Le Figaro that he was concerned about the attack like “All other French people. Not especially as Muslims. We live in harmony with the other religions. The isolated incidents of anti-Semitism carried out by Muslims should be not over generalized.” France has the largest populations of Muslims and Jews living in close proximity outside of the Middle East.

See full-text articles:

International Herald Tribune

More details on the attack here.

International Herald Tribune

Libération

Moussaoui’s comments in Le Figaro available here .

Nicolas Sarkozy Defends the Notion of “Positive French Secularism”

French president Nicolas Sarkozy recently defended the notion of “positive secularism” which allows place for religion in the public sphere. While Sarkozy has not introduced any real reform, making the statement in speeches in Rome in December 2007 and in Riyad in January 2008, the suggestion has created fierce debate. In the past Sarkozy has read the 1905 law separating Church and State broadly, notably in allowing the new construction of religious spaces for Muslims and in the controversial creation of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith) in 2003.

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Paris Grand Mosque To Boycott French Muslim Council Vote

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris and leader of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) since 2003, announced the Paris Grand Mosque will boycott the June 8, 2008 vote. Boubakeur has said, This is no way to organize Islam in France because larger, older mosques will be privileged in the voting schema. Until press date, president Sarkozy has not intervened or commented on the affair…