The Grand Mosque of Lyon’s rector Kamel Kabtane was one of the first figures to issue a statement on the recent terror attacks in Spain. In a communiqué published to the mosque’s Facebook page, Kabtane writes:
“Hatred and violence have once again touched innocent lives. Barcelona has been struck by a declining terrorist force on its last legs. The Grand Mosque of Paris firmly denounces this barbaric act that targeted innocent people. It expresses its compassion and solidarity with those touched by recent events. It extends its condolences to the families affected by this barbaric act and wishes to express its support in these difficult moments.”
Kamel also published a brief statement to his Twitter account: “After Nice. We must be united in solidarity against those who sow seeds of hate and violence.”
Following the announcement of Emmanuel Macron’s victory, the Grand Mosque of Paris released the following statement:
“The Grand Mosque of Paris sees signs of a France that has reconciled its spiritual and religious differences in order to respond in unity to the threats of division that weigh on our Nation. It’s a sign for France’s Muslims of a clear endorsement of the vivre-ensemble that is grounded in republican, humanist, patriotic, democratic, and secular values.”
The Grand Mosque of Lyon thanked those who were “conscious of the danger a discourse of hate and rejection of the other has caused France.” The French Council of the Muslims Faith congratulated Macron “for his victory, which opens our country to a future of fraternity and solidarity.”
Kamel Kabtane, rector of the Grand Mosque of Lyon, published a communiqué before the first round of the elections in which he called on the Muslim community to assume its “duty” to vote.
“Our responsibility, as citizens of this country, commands us to take part in France’s future at a time when certain irresponsible persons attempt to convince us to desert the voting booths and separate us from our fellow citizens,” he wrote. “Those who advocate retrograde beliefs, contribute to the image of a community who is uninterested in the Future of its country. The Muslims of France are in fact concerned, about the future of their country, just as they are concerned about the future of their children.”
Contacted by Lyon Capitale, Kabtane stated that salafist places of worship have attempted to dissuade Muslims from voting. “All the mosques are on alert and the sermons will call on Muslims to fulfill their duty as citizens. That is our objective,” he concluded.
Following the Council of State’s suspension of the anti-burkini orders in Villeneuve-Loubet, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) welcomed the ruling, calling it a “sensible decision,” and a “victory of rights, [and] wisdom.”
According to the CFCM’s Secretary General Abdallah Zekri, “This sensible decision will help defuse the situation, which was marked by high tensions among our Muslim compatriots, notably women.” He added that it was “a victory of rights, of wisdom, of promoting our country’s vivre ensemble”
The Grand Mosque of Lyon called on Muslims to be “proud of France.”
“This court decision serves as a symbolic model,” said the mosque’s rector Kamel Kabtane. “To those who argue, not without violence, that Islam has no place in France, in Europe, in the West…The Council of State has opposed them. Islam has its place in the Republic and the legal realm regarding a Muslim’s freedom of conscience, whether it be in the mosque or swimming in the ocean.”
The Great Mosque of Paris has recorded 40 conversions to Islam in January 2015, compared to 22 in January 2014. Conversions to Islam have thus doubled, and increased mosque attendance has been reported in Strasbourg, Aubervilliers and Lyon, where conversions have increased from 20% to 30%.
The media has reported that since the Charlie Hebdo attacks there has been an increase in sales of Qur’an.
The results may appear strange considering the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks and the tense climate following the Averroès high school controversy, where a former teacher accused students of harboring Islamist tendencies.
“The school’s director plays a double game with our secular Republic: from one angle he shows its credentials to the media…and also continues to profit as a result of its contract with the state, and from another angle, perniciously disseminates an interpretation of Islam which is none other than Islamism, that’s to say, a dangerous mix of religion and politics,” said former teacher Soufiane Zitouni.
One of the recent converts explained his decision to convert: “It makes me want to convert to Islam and show the world what it’s not.” The phenomenon of conversion is all the more notable because it is present on several socio-professional levels. Imams who were interviewed on the radio stated that recent converts include doctors, professors, police officers, and even school directors.
Established in November 2012, The Union of French Muslim Democrats (UDMF) claims more than 900 members and 8,000 supporters. Most are Muslims who do not identity with the current political parties and who are “fed up” with bipartisan politics. This year, the party will present eight candidates in departmental elections in Lyon, Nice, Pas-de-Calais, and others.
Directed by Najib Azergui, the party hopes to promote Islamic finance, an alternative form of traditional finance, as a method to avoid future economic crises. The party also hopes that certain “tragic chapters” in French history (Algeria, colonization, etc), which are “silently passed by” in certain schools, will be made part of their curricula. They also hope to provide Arabic classes, which are “unfairly banned” in secondary schools.
The party most notably defends the right for girls to wear headscarves in schools, as well as civic and philosophic education to teach students to “think and debate.”
28 people, including public officials, religious representatives and imams were awarded on Thursday in Lyon with a university diploma which validates their ‘knowledge on secularism’. The diploma was awarded by France’s Home Minister, Manuel Valls, who intends to expand this course to all religious representatives in the country. The course is financed by the French government and equals 200 hours of lectures on history, legal theory, etc., which are taught in University of Lyon III, the Catholic University of Lyon and the French Institute of Muslim Civilisation in Lyon.
Following the arrest of a 23-year-old serving soldier who planned to attack Vénissieux’s mosque in southeastern France, 150 Muslims gathered at the mosque to protest and express their fears and anger about the rise of Islamophobia in France. The 23-year-old sergeant of the French Air Force was arrested on August 7 at his military base in Mont Verdun. He later admitted to attacking a mosque with a Molotov cocktail in Libourne a year ago. The Muslim community in France is in shock about the revelation of the planned attack by the soldier, who intended to target the mosque in Vénissieux on the day of Eid-el-fitr, the final celebration of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Speakers at the event, including the leader of the Grand Mosque of Lyon, have denounced the ‘climate of Islamophobia’ which reigns in France and made comparison between the recent waves of violence and legislative restrictions targeting Muslim communities and the inception of the Holocaust against the Jews in Europe. The leader of the Grand Mosque of Lyon also criticized that no politician on federal level has so far taken responsibility for what happened.
Police investigations have revealed that the soldier has been sympathetic of right wing ideologues and been trying to get in touch with some of its national leaders. The 23-year-old was indicted for “possession of ammunition of the fourth category in relation to a terrorist plot” and “degradation place of worship in relation to a terror plot” and is remanded in custody.
The Secours islamique de France (SIF) is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an exposition in a “humanitarian village” in Paris, which will then travel to Lyon and St-Denis. The SIF’s first humanitarian mission dates to April 1992 during the Bosnian War. The organization has an annual budget of 21 million Euros, more than 500 volunteers and 115 employees. It has participated in 19 missions to date.
A newlywed Muslim couple are suing the mayor of Lyon after a local official insisted the bride remove her veil at the town hall wedding ceremony. The bride, identified only as Nassima A., was asked to remove a veil that covered her hair during her wedding ceremony at a town hall in Lyon in June.
The deputy mayor of Lyon’s 9th district, Fatiha Ben Ahmed, who asked the bride to bare her hair, told the bride that she looked “very pretty” without a veil.
The couple are now suing the mayor of Lyon Gérard Collomb and demanding €50,000 in damages. In France, officials who conduct wedding ceremonies are required to check the identities of the bride and groom. However in this case, Nassima’s veil was not covering her face.