At the Great Mosque of Paris, future imams “unload their baggage”

The Grand Mosque of Paris
The Grand Mosque of Paris

“The best thing I heard this week, it’s what the Pope said. The press can’t say anything it wants, there are things we can’t talk about.” Students at the Institute of Theology at the Great Mosque of Paris cited Pope Francois when discussing the recent attacks at Charlie Hebdo. While flying to the Philippines the Pope said, “one shouldn’t provoke or insult the faith of others, or make a game of it.”

Every Saturday and Sunday at the Institute from 9 am to 7 pm adults take classes in order to become imams, or, for only two years in order to become a chaplain. Courses were suspended on January 10 and 11 due to recent “events” and restarted January 17.

Missoum Chaoui, a tutor and prison chaplain in Ile-de-France decided to facilitate discussion among his students, the “future leaders” of Islam. Men sit in one corner, women in the other. “Go ahead, unload your baggage,” encourages Chaoui in front of his first-year class.

The discussion is a reminder that Muslims “don’t have to excuse these crimes,” because the terrorists aren’t one of them. Or to clarify that “the Muslim community, it mourns these men but not the freedom of expression.” Another said, “It’s been said that there weren’t many Muslims who participated in the demonstration. They forget that ‘Muslim,’ isn’t written on our foreheads.” Some preferred to write “anger” on social media rather than “Je suis Charlie.” “Open your Facebook page, go on the Internet,” recommends Chaoui, “They took out their poison pens, take out pens of peace to show who the Prophet really was.”

Some expressed their frustration with “double standards,” such as the fact that “anti-Semitism is prohibited,” while Islamophobia is not. “It will come. We just have to work for it,” assured their teacher. “There will always be those who speak badly of the Prophet. He has already been called a sorcerer, a liar and he always pardoned them.”

“Caricatures, it’s just the beginning,” says one student. Examining the cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo he says, “The turban isn’t holy, it speaks volumes. For those who look hard, we see male genitalia, on the turban. And on the face…it’s like a woman’s private parts. It’s going around Facebook.” Chaoui interrupts and reframes: “Attention to what is open to interpretation.” Another older man doesn’t believe the media’s version. “The scenario, it was constructed in advance,” by others, he says. “It’s not what’s said, we didn’t see their faces,” he grumbles four or five times. “They’re at the forensic institute,” retorts the professor, “Then who is it?” he asks. No response. Another woman responds, “This newspaper was on the brink of bankruptcy, there are a lot of Muslims in France, we provoke an event…Now they have a lot of money.” Certain people nod their head, others don’t, but the whole room falls silent, even the professor. Two or three questions later the class is over.

Salafist group calls for boycott of French local elections

March 20, 2014

 

The organization Anâ-Muslim (“I am Muslim”) is calling for a boycott of France’s local elections via its website, social network and brochures.

Anâ-Muslim is a nonprofit organization recognized by the French state. Its members share their vision of Islam on the organization’s website, on its Facebook and Twitter pages, and on YouTube. A few days ago, Anâ-Muslim called on Muslims to boycott French municipal elections, which will take place on March 23 and 30. They explain this decision by using various religious arguments and by saying that for a Muslim person, “voting is an act of submission … while abstaining is an act of resistance.”

On its website, the organization explains that this campaign is aimed at Muslim people between 18 and 40 years old. They argue that refusing to participate in French politics is a way to “preserve their faith”: “Voting means recognizing the power of men on earth and giving them absolutely sovereignty to create their own laws that have nothing to do with Islam.” The organization’s goal, as described in their mission statement, is to “teach Islam to Muslims … because Muslims are the only ones who can control their destiny … and contribute to Islam’s resurgence so that humanity may be saved”.

 

“This is the first time that a Muslim organization calls for boycotting elections for religious reasons” 

There have been similar calls for boycotts in the past, but these came from informal Islamist groups. This is the first time that a state-recognized Muslim organization calls for boycotting elections for religious reasons.

The Anâ-Muslim group and their website have existed for about three years. It became a state-recognized organization a little over a year ago. There are about 100 members and sympathizers who have signed up online. The organization is mainly targeted towards Muslim intellectuals and students.

The founders can be divided into two categories: some of them are close to jihadist movements but who believe Muslims living in France don’t have to wage jihad. Others are former jihadists who, today, believe that promoting their vision through legal means is the best solution. People from these two categories created Anâ-Muslim with the idea that they would work out in the open, and follow the law.

Anâ-Muslim is mostly active in the Paris region, but also in some other cities like Marseille and Lyon. Their main activities are preaching and distributing pamphlets in the street. They don’t want anyone to associate them with groups like Forsane-Alizza [an organization that the French authorities shut down in 2012 after members called for armed combat.]

To put it simply, the organization’s members are people who are close to the jihadist Salafist ideology, but without the war aspect. This involves, among other things, refusing the “Taghout”, meaning any leaders who do not respect the precepts of Islam.

 

Contacted by FRANCE 24, Dalil Boubaker, the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, shared his thoughts on the organization:

“Anâ-Muslim is an epiphenomenon. It has no real weight. Most Muslims in France – the vast majority of whom are involved in public and political life – won’t pay any attention to their call for a boycott. We live in a democracy, and it’s obvious that not participating in elections would be counterproductive for the Muslim community. In fact, the call for a boycott goes against the precepts of Islam. When the Prophet Mohammad died, his companions gathered and voted for his successor Abu Bakr, the first caliph. The Great Mosque of Paris and the French Council of Muslim Faith encourages all Muslims in France to take part in the local elections, and all elections.”

 

Source: http://observers.france24.com/content/20140320-salafist-organisation-boycott-french-elections

Mosque project replaced with nursery project

07.10.2013

Liberation

The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, rejected on Monday a mosque project funded by Saudi money. Estrosi intends to replace the project with a new nursery project. During a press conference, the mayor expressed that the religious site would not be compatible with his ‘Eco-Vallé project, which should attract businesses to the area. According to Estrosi, Dalil Boubakeur, the director of the Grand Mosque of Paris, expressed his support over his decision.

Contradicting announcements on beginning of Ramadan amongst French Muslim organisations

Zaman France

09.07.2013

The Grand Mosque of Paris has on Tuesday announced the beginning of this year’s Ramadan on Wednesday, July 10, contradicting the French Council of the Muslim Faith’s (CFCM) previous decision to declare the beginning of Ramadan for Tuesday, July 9. The month of Ramadan begins with the sighting of the moon crescent on the ninth month of the Muslim calendar.

 

The CFCM has this year for the first time adopted a new method to determine the beginning of Ramadan by using astronomic calculations instead of moon sightings in order to ease preparations for the holy month. The CFCM has thus announced that Tuesday, 9 July, will be the beginning of the month and  Eid-El-Fitr which marks the end of the month will be on 8 August. The Grand Mosque of Paris’s decision stands in stark contrast to the CFCM announcement and underlines the split between the different groups which compose the French Muslim umbrella organisation, CFCM.

Zaman France

French Council of the Muslim Faith elects new President

30.06.2013

Le Monde

The director of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, was elected to become the new President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith on Sunday (CFCM). The French Algerian has previously headed the organisation between 2003 and 2008 and succeeds the French Moroccan Mohamed Moussaoui.

The CFCM has recently been making headlines for a number of internal power struggles between the different national movements which make up the organisation following a push for  structural reforms in February. The organisation was created in 2003 under the guidance of the former Secretary of State and later French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to form a representative body for the several million-strong Muslim community of France.

CFCM slips into new crisis

23.06.2013

The Algerian dominated Great Mosque of Paris (GMP) quit a meeting of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) which was about to endorse the appointment of its director, Dalil Boubaker, as President of the Council.

The spokesperson of the GMP explained that “we left the meeting of the Board because we realized that there was a strategic alliance between Moroccans and Turks against the Great Mosque of Paris, challenging an agreement that we signed yesterday to exit the impasse to which the CFCM was heading to”.

As the crisis loomed, the GMP agreed to withdraw its candidate for the presidency of the CFCM, Chems Eddine Hafiz, disputed by other federations, especially the Morrocan led Rally of French Muslim (RMF).The RMF challenged the candidacy of Hafiz who acts as the lawyer of the Polisario Front, which is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, annexed by the Rabat government in 1975. Instead of Mr. Hafiz, the GMP was eventually offered to name its director, Boubakeur,  as the President of the CFCM. Boubakeur had at first refused to take the presidency of the CFCM, which witnessed a landslide election win by the RMF in the elections for its regional councils on June 8. The pro-Morocco group dominated with 25 seats, against 8 seats for the Algerians and 7 for the Turks.

The CFCM was established in 2003 to provide the several million strong Muslim population of France a representative body.

The quest for French educated imams

Liberation

07.05.2013

As so often declared by the French Government, the recent Secretary of State, Maneul Valls, wants to see more imams educated in France in mosques all over the country. He has made it one of his priority tasks to forward the cause and instructed a study conducted by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research on the subject, which is ought to be published in September.

Today, the majority of France’s ca. 1800 imams is still educated in the countries of origin of the diverse French Muslim community, despite that a large segment of France’s Muslims represents the second or third generation of immigrants. One of the greatest obstacles for the attraction of French educated imams is the lack of funding assigned to the job in the country. As most financial assets of the community are diverted to the construction of mosques and other facilities, the majority of imams need to be recruited from abroad based on lower salary expectations. France’s imams are in their majority sent from Algeria, Turkey, Morocco and other countries to teach no more than 4 years in the country while remaining to be regulated and under the control of their countries of origin.

The French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) has for long championed the cause of recruiting French educated imams, but has failed to advance the cause. The internal politics of the larger French Muslim organisations, who prefer to hold sway over who is in power of teaching and influence the Muslim community, has further made it difficult to make progress. While the Union of Muslim organisations in France (UOIF) and the Grand Mosque of Paris have set up training centres for imams, it is unclear what happened to the many French trained students of the imam centres. Most are believed to have visited the centres to learn Arabic or learn Islamic sciences, prior to unsuccessfully enrolling to greater Muslim centres of theological teaching such as Medina or Cairo

Local chapters of the French Council for the Muslim Cult refuse reforms.

Vitre Ma Ville

16.04.2013

In an interview with the President of the Regional Council of the Muslim Cult in Bretagne (CRCM), Mustafa Aslan, he expresses  how the recent reforms made by the national chapter of the French Council for the Muslim Cult (CFCM) are rejected by a number of local chapters. The reforms do, according to Aslan, present an unjust representation of the Muslim community in France. Accordingly, 50% of the administration of the council is appointed by the federation without reforms, which possibly negatively impacts  the regional member representation and participation. Regional members will be marginalized despite holding long lasting mandates that were determined prior to the reforms voted on in the general assembly in February. The marginalization of regional representatives is accused to function in favour of those, who are closely associated with the larger urban organisations.

The reforms were past on February 23rd in the general assembly of the CFCM, which consists of a three party alliance made up between the Grand Mosque of Paris, the RMF and UOIF.

Feminist activists burn Salafi flag

Le Figaro

03.04.2013

Three feminists of the Ukrain-based Femen movement have burnt the Salafi flag in front of the Great Mosque of Paris. The women, of whom two were white and one of Tunisian origin, burnt the flag as an expression of solidarity with a Tunisian feminist who had previously decried human rights abuses against women in Arab-Muslim societies.

The UOIF and the Mosque of Paris meet to discuss representation of Islam in France

News Agencies – May 31, 2012

 

While formally estranged, on May 29, 2012, representatives from the l’Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF) and the Grande Mosquée de Paris met over a friendly lunch to discuss the situation of Islam in France, particularly focused on the representation of the tradition through the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM). The two groups have historically had their differences but appear to have put aside their differences to discuss this point. The UOIF boycotted the most recent CFCM elections on grounds that the group is too fractioned and not representational.