The elections on Sunday June 8th for the Council of French Muslims (CFCM) has revealed schisms in the French Muslim community. The council was imposed in 2003 by Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior. It’s in a permanent crisis, according to the Council’s vice-president, Fouad Alaoui
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…
Boubakeur el Hakim, 24, is on trial this month in Paris accused with four other young Frenchmen of funneling French Muslim fighters to Iraq. The case is a delicate one, as France is largely strongly opposed to the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq, but also struggles against homegrown terrorism. In a French radio interview on RTL radio broadcast from Baghdad in 2003, el Hakim urged Parisian friends to join him on the battlefield. The key concern for the French police has been what these fighters do when they return to France. The fighters claimed to have first traveled to Syria to take Arabic lessons and receive basic weapon training prior to arrival in Iraq.
The Charlie-Hebdo weekly satirical Paris-based newspaper has been cleared of a charge of publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion. A group of French Muslim associations filed a complaint following their publication of the 2005 Danish cartoons in February 2006. The appeals court ruled that the cartoons were not aimed at insulting all Muslims, did not constitute an attack on Islam and did not go beyond the limits of free speech. The paper’s lawyer, Richard Malka, proclaimed the decision a beautiful victory for secularism and freedom of expression.
While the upcoming municipal elections in March are prompting candidates to court voters and support, many are making Muslims and mosques a major focus of their campaign – either supportive to attract Muslim supporters, or promising no increase in Islamic presence, drawing backing from rightist voters. The issue is major, as up for grabs are all city mayors and municipal councilors. One of the main banners for Thomas Joly’s campaign reads: “No Mosque in Beauvais.” The online campaign of UMP candidate Francoise de Panafieu for the Paris municipality, the country’s largest, features a photo of Muslims praying on a Parisian street. The caption for the photo reads: “France must be ashamed that citizens practice their rituals on the margins.” Muslim candidates themselves are not absent from the municipal campaign trails, and are representing a variety of parties. “We want French of immigrant backgrounds, especially Muslims, to be heavily represented in municipal elections,” Youssef Alzawi, who is leading the independent Bobigny for All list, told IslamOnline.net Monday, January 28. Citizens of immigrant descent make up nearly 21% of the population of 46,000 in Bobigny. Alzawi cites that paying attention to youth needs and resources is a major issue of his campaign. Leila Bouzidi, a French Muslim of Algerian descent is also a leading slate for the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).
The Catholic Institute of Paris, in conjunction with the Grand Mosque of Paris, will offer a government-sponsored two-semester course beginning in January for thirty student imams to complete their religious training. The course, entitled Religions, Secularism, Interculturality will offer 400 hours of accredited instruction in four subject areas – general culture, legislative matters, openness and the human sciences, and intercultural exchange.
A nightly radio phone-in show in Paris has opened up a forum for French Muslim youth to ask questions about religious practice. The show is hosted by Ahmed el Keiy, a lawyer-turned-journalist, who invites imams to help answer questions a wide range of topics, from perfume and hair gel, to prayer. Citing a lack of men and women who know how to teach religion properly, illiterate elders, and do-it-yourself Islam, the radio show encourages callers to find a medium between total liberalism and extremism.
CAIRO – French Justice Minister Rachida Dati is facing a smear campaign by right-wing media and “jealous” politicians, who cannot swallow a Muslim woman of poor ethnic background holding such a prestigious post, Britain’s Times reported on Tuesday, July 17. “Rachida Dati is paying for being an outsider, because she is young, a woman and of North African origin,” said Dominique Sopo, the Socialist President of the SOS Racisme organization. He said Dati, as an “atypical” minister, has sparked “resentment” among the “republican aristocracy.” Dati, 41, has become in no time one of the most popular politicians in France with six books on her life and battle against adversity being rushed into print.
Khaled Bouchama, a member of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF), is also a member of the Ile-de-France Regional Council for the Muslim Religion, the CRCM Ile-de-France. Saphirnews.com: What problems have you run into with this year’s Eid? Khaled Bouchama : The problems are always the same. The lack of ritual slaughterhouses has been aggravated by the cosure of Mantes la Jolie which was not up to code. In Seine-Saint-Denis, there was not a single approved slaughterhouse… SN: The CFCM hasn’t done anything about these problems? KB : The CFCM has done nothing. It needs to own its responsibility in this business, because the job of the CFCM is to defend, in a correct and objective manner, the Muslim religion. The French Muslim community is part of the French nation. The state is responsible for this nation. The CFCM must put pressure on the state so that it facilitates the necessary conditions for the Eid sacrifices. For French Muslims, it is a local matter. But the local prefects can only execute the law. For the law to change, there must be a national political presence.
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.”