The French Council of state will soon make a decision regarding the request by Muslim students at the Antony student residence in the Hauts-de-Seine for a prayer room, which has been closed since January 2nd. While the space had previously been used for more than 30 years as a prayer room, it was evacuated at the beginning of this year due to electrical and fire code concerns. The residence which houses more than 2,000 students is the largest in France.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy is scheduled to visit the vandalized Muslim tombs in the military cemetery at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette in the Pas-de-Calais on April 24th. The visit will coincide with the 90th anniversary commemoration of the end of the First World War, and was announced following Sarkozy’s meeting with a delegation from the Muslim community organized Dalil Boubakeur, president of the Conseil fran_ais du culte musulman (CFCM or the French Council of the Muslim Faith).
A number of Arab and Muslim countries are engaged in power struggles to push the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) to elect a new council on June 8th, 2008. 5,232 mosque representatives will elect a 65-member general assembly which will elect a 17-member board. The board will then elect a president. The run-up to the elections has seen fierce battles, primarily between Algerian and Moroccan-affiliated groups. Turkey and other Gulf countries are also vying for a foothold in the CFCM.
French Muslims want new blood injected into the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), the country’s main representative body, to redress deficiencies and start a new chapter. “Five years after the council came into being, it is time for a second reading to its policies,” Larbi Kechat, the rector of the Ad Dawa mosque in Paris, told IslamOnline.net. On June 8th, the CFCM will hold its third general elections, which will see some 5,232 mosque representatives casting the ballot to choose a 65-member general assembly; 14 days later, the new assembly will elect 17 members to the council’s board, who will then elect a president. Incumbent CFCM president Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Paris Grand Mosque, has expressed desire for third 3-year term – but sources say he is lacking in support. Criticism abounds over the CFCM’s poor achievements over the past five years, and its mishandling over key issues like the hijab and Islamophobia. Many members also believe that it did not respond properly to the reprinting of Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.
France counts today more than 2,000 mosques and places of worship. About 1,500 ti 1,800 imams lead daily prayers and celebrate the preach on Friday. When it was created in May 2003, the French Council for Muslim Cult (CFCM) had the training of imams at the top of its priorities. Hindered by internal disputes and incapable to go beyond group loyalties, the leaders of CFCM have never been able to put forward any serious proposal. Political leaders have not always seemed to grasp the importance of the issue. Since 2003, four ministers of the Interior and Cults, including current president Mr Sarkozy, have occupied the Place Beauvau (home of the Interior Ministry). Each time, the Minister aims to address the issue of the training of imams, displays a can-do attitude, and each time ho goes away without really tackling the issue. The authority of Islam in France is plural, and no personality – as respected as he may be – can pretend to express the voice of all Muslims, which is a real problem in France.
The leaders of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF) were stunned by a press release from “the offensive of the Socialist Party” against their federation. After the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) became concerned about “the political and electoral usage of the debates surrounding Islam in France”, the UOIF denounced the platforms contained in a document published by the Socialist Party in the course of the electoral campaign; this document describes the UOIF as “fundamentalist”.
Can the French justice system guarantee the “defense of the dignity of the Muslim religion”? The president of the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) thinks so. The CFCM president is Dalil Boubakeur, who is also rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris. One illustration, he says, is the court case which begins Wednesday, February 7 against “Charlie Hebdo”, following the magazine’s publication of the Danish artists’ caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. The Grand Mosque and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) made a complaint against the French magazine for “public injury to the dignity of a group of people on account of their religion.”
Participating for the first time in debates linked to the presidential campaign, the representatives of French Muslims regrouped under the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) are worried. They would like to meet the candidates for the presidential election to express their worries about the politicized way in which the debate over French Islam is used in the electoral race.
The president of the National Federation of Muslims in France, Muhammad Bechari, has been sent to a new office. Contested in his own party, he was at the origin of the impasse.
Many in France view the growing role of Muslims in their society with a jaundiced eye, as do others elsewhere, suspecting that new Muslim political and religious networks are a threat to European rule of law and the French way of life. Not surprisingly, however, the reality of the situation is far too complicated to be captured by slogans and slurs. Integrating Islam examines the complex reality of Muslim integration in France-its successes, failures, and future challenges.
Laurence and Vaisse paint a comprehensive and nuanced portrait of the French Muslim experience, from intermarriage rates to socioeconomic benchmarks. They pay special attention to public policies enacted by recent French governments to encourage integration and discourage extremism-for example the controversial 2004 banning of headscarves in public schools and the establishment of the new French Council of the Muslim Religion. Despite the serious problems that exist, the authors foresee the emergence of a religion and a population that feel at home in, and at peace with, French society – a “French Islam” to replace “Islam in France.”