France Pays Muslim Soldiers’ Debt

February 19, 2014


A century after their sacrifices to France, long forgotten French Muslim soldiers have been remembered by President Francois Hollande who said France “owed a debt” to Muslim soldiers who died in World War I, pledging to fight racism and discrimination targeting the religious minority.

“France will never forget the price of the blood shed” by Muslim soldiers, Hollande said at a ceremony in Paris’s Grand Mosque on Tuesday, February 18, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

Holland’s visit to the mosque, the first since being elected president in 2012, comes ahead of events planned later this year to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the war.

About 600,000 troops from France’s colonies took part in the 1914-18 war and about 70,000 Muslims lost their lives at the battle of Verdun in 1916, according to figures released by the Defence Ministry in 2010.

Hollande unveiled a plaque paying tribute to the 100,000 French Muslims who died fighting in the two world wars.

His presidential predecessors Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy also presented memorials and plaques remembering Muslims who fought for France.

Islam is “perfectly compatible with the values of France,” Hollande said.

“This homage is a call for respect,” Hollande said, urging a “fierce fight against discrimination, inequality and racism” as well as against “anti-Muslim words and acts.”

France is home to a Muslim minority of six million, Europe’s largest.

According to a poll published in April last year, three out of four French people have an negative image of Islam.

French Muslims have been complaining of growing restrictions on their religious freedoms.

In 2004, France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.

France has also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public.

The Grand Mosque of Paris, the largest mosque in France, was built between 1922 -1926.

French Muslim leaders have welcomed Hollande’s move to remember Muslim fighters.

“Even if this is not new, it’s good that François Hollande again reminds those who reject Muslims that thousands of natives died for France,” said Abdallah Zekri of the CFCM coalition of Islamic groupings, RFI reported on Tuesday.

“He should seize the chance to discuss the present worrying atmosphere with us,” he added.

On the other hand, Louis Aliot, the vice-president of the far-right Front National, slammed the visit as a “crude attempt at manipulation”.

“These comments are totally irresponsible because France has never forgotten the soldiers who died for France,” he stormed, claiming that the ceremony is exploiting them for the sake of “sectarian lobbyists”.

“If increasingly radical political Islam poses a problem […] of republican compatibility in our country, it’s not up to France to adapt and to provide answers it’s up to that religion,” Aliot said.

French media has also interpreted the visit as being aimed at gaining the favor of Muslims, who currently constitute five percent of the country’s voters, ahead of the March local elections.




New stamp to mark 90th anniversary of Paris Mosque

News Agencies – February 10, 2012

The French postal service will mark the 90th anniversary of the completion of the Paris Grand Mosque with a new stamp. The stamp will be launched with a ceremony at the Grand Mosque. A temporary post office will be set up at the mosque to sell the first day of issue stamps.

The Moroccan-backed Rally of French Muslims (RMF) Sweeps CFCM Vote in Paris

The Rally of French Muslims (RMF) swept the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) polls, with 43.4 percent of the votes (or 20 of 41 seats) cast on June 8. The Moroccan-backed RMF group ended years of domination by Algerian-backed groups. 4,862 delegates representing 1,039 mosques voted to elect members of the CFCM’s general assembly and regional offices. The system allocates delegates according to the size of mosques, with one delegate for each 100m2. The Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF) came second with 30.2 percent of the vote (12 seats). The elections created tensions inside the CFCM between Algerian and Moroccan-affiliated groups. The Paris Grand Mosque, itself Algerian-backed, boycotted the vote, accusing the Moroccan consulate of allocating 50,000 Euros to each of the 25 areas to boost the RMF’s chances of winning the elections. The new general assembly will vote on Sunday June 22 to elect an 11-member executive, which will elect a president. Paris Grand Mosque’s rector Dalil Boubakeur has served for two terms as president. The CFCM was created in 2003 with support of then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy as the official representative body of France’s Muslim population.

Paris Grand Mosque To Boycott French Muslim Council Vote

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…

French Muslims seek new representative body in mosque

French Muslims want new blood injected into the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), the country’s main representative body, to redress deficiencies and start a new chapter. “Five years after the council came into being, it is time for a second reading to its policies,” Larbi Kechat, the rector of the Ad Dawa mosque in Paris, told On June 8th, the CFCM will hold its third general elections, which will see some 5,232 mosque representatives casting the ballot to choose a 65-member general assembly; 14 days later, the new assembly will elect 17 members to the council’s board, who will then elect a president. Incumbent CFCM president Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Paris Grand Mosque, has expressed desire for third 3-year term – but sources say he is lacking in support. Criticism abounds over the CFCM’s poor achievements over the past five years, and its mishandling over key issues like the hijab and Islamophobia. Many members also believe that it did not respond properly to the reprinting of Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

The education of Imams at the Catholic Institute causes a stir in the mosque

The Paris Grand Mosque and the city’s Catholic university are teaming up to offer university education for imams, hoping to promote a more modern Islam and integrate immigrant community leaders into France. The offered courses include study in the social and economic sciences, and are meant to encourage a better comprehension of French culture and society and the relationship to religion – but will not include any theological instruction.

Will Islam À La Française Take Hold? Paris’ Grand Mosque Is At Center Of Effort To Build A Moderate French Islam

By Daniel Strieff PARIS – Mustapha Tougui says he has the Quran in his blood. The Moroccan-born, Saudi-educated lecturer at the Muslim theological institute at the Paris Grand Mosque uses earthy language as he tries to preserve what he calls his students’ spiritual hygiene. His enthusiasm is infectious. “If you eat always your mother’s cooking, what a pity. I like other cooking, and Islam invites me (to appreciate) that. Islam shows me that,” Tougui said as his students laughed. “The situation is a bit difficult now because (terrorists) give us an image and it’s too difficult to clean … this dirt from the image of Islam.” The government hopes that moderates like Tougui at this Algerian government-funded mosque will play a leading role as this country tries to forge a so-called French Islam – one that is not only compatible with Islamic tradition but also palatable to the French government, mainstream society and, not least of all, Muslims themselves. The mosque is serving as a kind of incubator for a moderate strain of France’s second religion, which the government hopes will head off any drift toward radicalism within Europe’s largest Muslim minority. “We are an open Islam,” Dr. Djelloul Seddiki, the head of the theological institute at the mosque, said. “But there are other Islams in France,” including fundamentalists and radicals, he said. The Paris Grand Mosque oversees the affairs of around 400 of the 1,800 facilities described as mosques throughout France, which can include simple one-room structures. The head of the mosque, Dr. Dalil Boubakeur, described by the Le Monde newspaper as “the ideal Muslim,” is the most prominent Muslim in France and a friend of President Jacques Chirac. “We prefer that [the radicals] are inside than outside, because it keeps them close,” Seddiki said. “The best defense is education.” That’s where Tougui comes in. The 56-year-old’s courses are open to all, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The mosque’s theological institute also runs courses that it hopes will train a new generation of French-born imams, which is a hot topic in France. “I hope to bestow the right religion so that they can educate themselves. I want to preserve them from spiritual pollution,” Tougui said. “Unfortunately you have very few teacher-lecturers who know how to lecture. They have gold in their hands, but they don’t know how to manage it,” he said. France, along with other countries across Europe, is eager to limit its dependence on foreign imams. “In the mosque, if the imam is not a French citizen and if he does not speak French, you can not speak about a ‘French Islam’,” Seddiki said. […]