French Muslims mobilize against religious fanaticism

June 5, 2014

In the midst of the “Mehdi Nemmouche case,” the Conseil Francais du Culte Musulman (CFCM) published a “Citizens’ agreement of French Muslims” which condemns violence, lists the community’s goals and intends to clarify its place in France’s secular society. The agreement’s ninth article states: “Muslims in their entirety reject violence and do whatever is in their power to prevent young people from succumbing to the deleterious messages that encourage violence and fanaticism.”

Dalil Boubakeur, the CFCM’s president stated, “we have worked on these principles for several months, this agreement is not a product of the current situation and the events that are happening.” However, in light of the current tension surrounding Islam’s place in France, Boubakeur highlighted the current need to “distinguish the difference between what is good for our community and what is harmful.”

The text reaffirms that that “the word ‘jihad’ signifies in particular an individual’s inner fight and effort,” which assumes a “spiritual dimension, consisting of one’s best attempt to do good.”

The agreement’s first segment highlights the place of Muslims within French society. The CFCM underscores its commitment to France’s secular nature and its opposition to the full veil worn by some Muslim women.

In the second segment, dedicated to “the goals of French Muslims,” the text outlines the development of Islamophobia in France and stresses that the issue “concerns everyone.” The agreement underscores the importance of chaplaincies, especially those in prisons,that should “prevent and control all radicalism through religious education.”

The CFCM intends to present its text to the French authorities, however the agreement does not represent an initiative that is unanimously supported by all Muslim leaders in France. Since its establishment the council has been plagued by internal disputes linked to the leaders’ countries of origin (notably Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia). The CFCM represents a small fragment of over three thousand religious organizations and the five million Muslims currently living in France.

Confrontational Architecture: Europe’s Mosques Move from Back Alleys to Boulevards

There are plans to build several hundred new and often magnificent mosques throughout Europe — particularly in Germany. Architecture has become the field of a fierce ideological battle about the visibility of Europe’s 16 million Muslims. Just a few minutes ago, Mubashra Ilyas was still standing on her dusty construction site. Now the 30-year-old architect is striding through a gallery in the back courtyard of a building in Berlin’s Mitte district in elegant black boots. As the room slowly fills up, Ilyas continues to stand out: She’s the only woman wearing a headscarf. The topic of the evening’s discussion is “Mosques, Migration and Myth,” and Ilyas doesn’t want to miss it. She designed the first mosque to be built in eastern Berlin — the first in all of eastern Germany, in fact — and it’s just about finished. The official opening is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 16. The next few hours at Berlin’s Aedes Architecture Forum will be spent discussing the issues of how “back alley mosques” will soon become a thing of the past, the aesthetics of the new mosques and traditional versus modern styles. The real issue of debate, however, will be the fact that, stone by stone and minaret by minaret, Muslims in Germany want to become more visible — they are no longer content to have their places of worship largely hidden from public view. In architectural terms, they want to be part of the cityscape in a way they have never been before. Ulrike Knöfel reports.

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