Italian man arrested for Anti-Islam graffiti while on vacation in France

August 14, 2013

An Italian was arrested during the night in Avignon, southern France, because he smeared the walls near the entrance to the historic Palace of the Popes with anti-Islam writings. The Le Parisien reported today, citing the deputy prosecutor of Avignon, Thierry Villardo. The man, in his thirties, has been identified thanks to surveillance cameras and he was stopped as he prepared to deface other walls with slogans against Muhammad. At least seven other similar writings were found in the city.

It seems that the young Italian has had an altercation with some men of North African origin before committing the act. “He had a fight with them” said the deputy attorney Villardo “and went to buy some spray paint, he is not necessarily a chronic racist and xenophobe; he was really angry.” The man is currently in police custody. The town hall of Avignon, the Papal Palace and the Bank of France have all filed a complaint against him, according to Le Parisien. Even the Observatory of Islamophobia in the French Council of the Muslim Faith has announced its intention to file a complaint for incitement to racial hatred.

Appearing in the afternoon before the court of Avignon, the tourist smeared the walls of the Palace of the Popes with anti-Islam writings. The ANSA reported the deputy prosecutor of Avignon, Thierry Villardo, stated that the young man, who was arrested on the night between Monday and Tuesday in Avignon, “regrets his action.” Francesco Cattaneo, 31, from the province of Como, arrived in Avignon on Monday morning; he was to continue to Spain, after a brief stay in Avignon.

Cattaneo, confirmed the deputy prosecutor suspicions that he acted “in anger” after having a dispute with a group of people from North Africa. From a psychological report it was found that the 31 year old had a “difficult past,” in the words of the deputy prosecutor, and that “he was not in full possession of his faculties.” Cattaneo could spend up to seven years in prison.

Double desecration
Writing insults to Muhammad on the walls of the Palace of the Popes of Avignon, the Italian tourist, who is in custody in the southern city of France, has committed a “double desecration” against the Prophet and against a symbol of Christianity said Mohamed Moussaoui, honorary president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith. The desecration “of the first name of the prophet, the greatest symbol of Islam, and also the desecration of one of the major places of Christianity,” said Moussaoui on radio France. He also condemned the act as “odious,” calling on Muslims to remain “vigilant but calm, know that extremism can thrive only in an atmosphere of tension.” Several acts added to the anti-Islam rhetoric in recent days. Just three days ago, a soldier was arrested while planning an attack on the mosque in Venissieux, a suburb of Lyon.

French Muslims demand ban of far-right group after attack on mosque

The Globe and Mail – October 22, 2012


The French Muslim Council (CFCM) has urged the government to ban a far-right group that occupied a mosque and issued a “declaration of war” against what it called the Islamisation of France. CFCM President Mohammed Moussaoui said the Council also wanted better protection for mosques and Muslim cemeteries against racist attacks, which he said jumped sharply in 2011 and continued to rise this year.

Some 73 protesters from a movement called Identity Group seized a mosque in the western city of Poitiers on October 20th and unfurled a banner referring to Charles Martel’s historic defeat of advancing Muslim troops there in 732. They stayed for more than six hours before police ejected them. In a video posted on its website, the movement issued what it called a “declaration of war” on multiculturalism. It also called for a referendum to block further immigration from outside Europe and further construction of mosques in France

Moussaoui said the protest, the first time a mosque in France had been occupied, represented “a new escalation in violence against Muslims”. Violent acts and threats against Muslims rose by 34 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, and went up again by 14 percent in the first half of this year, he told reporters.

French Council of the Muslim Faith torn by factional split

News agencies – July 13, 2012


France’s main Muslim organization is in crisis after the oldest Paris mosque announced that it was leaving on 11 July 2012. Founded by Nicolas Sarkozy when he was interior minister in 2003, the French Muslim Council (CFCM) is torn by factional disputes as it discusses reforming its structure. The rector of the influential Grande Mosquée de Paris (GMP), Dalil Boubakeur, announced that it was quitting the CFCM, accusing the federation’s president, Mohamed Moussaoui, of “autocratic governance” and claiming that his organization was being squeezed out of its rightful role.


The news came as a surprise not only to Moussaoui but also to the national executive of the Paris mosque. Boubakeur was the first president of the CFCM and is still an honorary president. At present representation on the CFCM is allotted according to the size of an organization’s mosques and Boubakeur, who is considered close to the Algerian government, accused CFCM leaders of “trying to play down the size and influence” if his mosque.


Factional infighting has dogged the CFCM, leading current Interior Minister Manuel Valls to complain of “divisions, egoisms and competition” in its ranks and to call on it to “dedicate itself exclusively to places of worship”. At the beginning of 2011 the GMP and the Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UOIF), which is considered close to the Muslim Brotherhood, boycotted the election to national and regional committees.

The GMP nevertheless took the seats that were allotted to it.

Mosque bearing Moroccan king’s name opens in France

News Agencies – June 21, 2012

A new mosque bearing the name of Moroccan King Mohamed VI is now open in France amid praise of the cooperation of the French authorities. The president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil français du culte musulman), Mohammed Moussaoui, inaugurated the Mohamed VI Mosque in the southwestern French city of Saint-Étienne. The mosque, built on an area of 10,000 square meters, boosts a 14-meter high minaret and accommodates more than 1,000 worshippers.

The mosque bears the name of Moroccan king Mohamed VI who donated five million Euros of the total eight million of the construction cost. The mosque includes a cultural center which is intended to act like a branch of the famous Paris-based Arab World Institute.

The construction of the mosque, said Moussaoui, offered a proof of the cooperation of French authorities with the Muslim community in France to promote freedom of worship.

The Saint-Étienne mosque joins a long list of French mosques whose numbers have been on the rise in the past few years. In 2005, the number of mosques whose area exceeded 1,000 square meters was only 34 while now the number has reached 200. Mosques in France are usually funded by donations from members of the Muslim community in France in case of small mosques while big mosques are usually funded by other Muslim countries especially Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Morocco, Algeria, and Turkey.

The CFCM attacked by its founders

Le Monde – June 1, 2012

This Le Monde article charts how a number of alliances and fractures are unfolding as French Muslim organizations critique the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) for its lack of representativity. In fact, it is the two initial founders of the CFCM who, having boycotted the 2011 elections, are calling for reform. A number of groups are also critical of CFCM president Mohammed Moussaoui, claiming he has not suitably reformed the organization to better include women and young people.

Between 100-150 mosques being built in France

News Agencies – August 2, 2011

According to the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Mohammed Moussaoui, 100-150 mosques are currently being built in France. Moussaoui said that most are financed by the worshipers and very few from abroad. French Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, has said that in the past decade the number of mosques increased from 1000 to 2000 in the French territory.

According to Moussaoui, 17-23% of French Muslims go to Friday prayers, which he says distinguishes between the practicing and non-practicing Muslims. He repeated that prayers in the streets were outrageous, but stemmed from lack of places in mosques. Guéant wants to stop Friday prayers in the streets. According to a senior official, there are 17 mosques in Paris, all filled up, and they can’t accommodate more than 13,000 people, which is insufficient.

Mohammed Moussaoui Reelected as head of the CFCM

News Agencies – June 19, 2011

As expected, 47 year-old Franco-Moroccan Mohammed Moussaoui was reelected as the president of the CFCM (the French Council of the Muslim Faith. The 58 elected members of the executive council – themselves elected in different French regions on 5 June – united in Paris to elect the president and the executive office. The elections have been mired in controversy with the boycott of the GMP (Mosque of Paris) and the UOIF (Union of Islamic Organizations of France. The CFCM was created in 2003 as governmental interlocutor on questions related to Islam.

Mohammed Moussaoui Expected to be Elected as CFCM President on Sunday

News Agencies – June 17, 2011


As the Council Election for the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith) approaches on 19 June, the organisation meant to represent Islam here is torn apart by rivalries, boycotts and bitter attacks. It appears that incumbent Mohammed Moussaoui will be returned as head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), but a boycott by the two rival Muslim federations competing with his Rally of French Muslims (RMF) group makes the victory a hollow one.

The campaign has also fuelled the ethnic tensions crippling French Islam, which is split among factions backed by Algeria, Morocco and Turkey and others who oppose any meddling from the Muslim countries that they left behind. The voting method used, which allocates electoral college delegates to each federation according to the total floor space of its mosques around the country, was the reason Moussaoui’s rivals gave for the boycott. The broader reason for the boycott is that French Muslims of Moroccan origin, although fewer than those with an Algerian background, are generally more devout and — with encouragement from Rabat and Moussaoui’s RMF — are building more mosques.


Mohammed Moussaoui announces candidacy for upcoming CFCM elections in France

News Agencies – May 25, 2011


The RMF (Rassemblement des Musulmans de France or Assembly of French Muslims) renewed their confidence in unanimously selecting Mohammed Moussaoui as their representative to stand as president of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith) in upcoming elections on June 5th and 19th.


French Council of the Muslim Faith Leader Speaks about Islam in France

News Agencies – March 9, 2011

These articles feature Mohammed Moussaoui, leader of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), and his position on the proposed debate on Islam and French Muslims. Moussaoui claims that given the current political context both nationally and internally, a healthy debate is not possible. While it may seem like the debate is about secularism, it will stigmatize Muslims, he adds. French Muslims are typically profoundly attached to secularism because it guarantees freedom of conscience and equality among all citizens. The CFCM president also points back to the 2003 Stasi and 2006 Machelon commissions wherein few recommendations have been put into action.