France inaugurates first official Muslim cemetery

News Agencies – February 6, 2012

France inaugurated its first municipal Muslim cemetery in the city of Strasbourg, a move hailed by Islamic leaders as a step in recognizing one of the country’s largest minority groups. Local officials and Muslim leaders attended a ceremony in the northeastern French city to launch the cemetery, which has space for about 1,000 graves. Mohammed Moussaoui, the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, hailed the cemetery’s opening as a “historic” moment for Muslims in France and said it was “an important symbol of belonging” for the community.

“If a religious community is to feel entirely at home in a city, it must be helped in building places for worship and for the burial of its believers,” said Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries. France’s 1905 law on the separation of church and state forbids the building of municipal cemeteries restricted to only one religion. But the Alsace-Moselle region, which includes Strasbourg, operates under different basic laws dating from its reversion from German to French control after World War I.

Assailants topple 30 tombstones, scrawl swastikas at Muslim cemetery in northeast France

News Agencies – September 24, 2010
Unidentified assailants have toppled about 30 tombstones and scrawled swastikas into the ground at a Muslim cemetery plot in Strasbourg, in northeastern France. Mayor Roland Ries has denounced the desecration of the Muslim section of a cemetery in the city of Strasbourg as “an unbearable racist act.”
An umbrella group of French Muslim organizations, the CFCM (French Council of Muslim Faith) expressed its “indignation” about the vandalism overnight Thursday to Friday and called on authorities to track down and punish the attackers. France is home to Western Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim populations, and there are occasional attacks on their schools, cemeteries or places of worship. Many go unsolved and unprosecuted.

Assailants topple 30 tombstones, scrawl swastikas at Muslim cemetery in northeast France

News Agencies – September 24, 2010
Unidentified assailants have toppled about 30 tombstones and scrawled swastikas into the ground at a Muslim cemetery plot in Strasbourg, in northeastern France. Mayor Roland Ries has denounced the desecration of the Muslim section of a cemetery in the city of Strasbourg as “an unbearable racist act.”
An umbrella group of French Muslim organizations, the CFCM (French Council of Muslim Faith) expressed its “indignation” about the vandalism overnight Thursday to Friday and called on authorities to track down and punish the attackers. France is home to Western Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim populations, and there are occasional attacks on their schools, cemeteries or places of worship. Many go unsolved and unprosecuted.

“Anti-minaret” slogans spray-painted on Strasbourg mayor’s residence

Socialist Party mayor of Strasbourg Roland Ries’ private home was vandalized with Islamophobic and “anti-minaret” slogans. In November in the midst of the Swiss minaret banning referendum and controversy, Ries told reporters that there would be “no reason” to impose a similar minaret ban in Strasbourg, particularly for one currently under construction. The vandalism is still under investigation.

Muslim cemetery opens in France

France’s first Muslim cemetery has opened in Strausbourg. Roland Ries, mayor of Strasbourg, will sign the contract for the cemetery with Mohamed Moussaoui, President of the French Council for the Muslim Faith and Driss Ayachour, President of the Regional Council of the Muslim Faith.

In 1973, spaces for those who wished to be buried in the Muslim tradition were created within existing cemeteries in Strausbourg. But as more Muslims migrated to the area, needs outgrew the space.

In 2003 the town’s Conseil of Muslims proposed a plan to create an all-Muslim cemetery, but it was not until summer 2008 when Roland Ries put together a working group that real progress was made to make it happen.

Ries worked together with representatives of Muslim associations in the town: Deputy Mayor Delegate of the civil state Anne-Pernelle Richardot, and Deputy Delegate of Culture Olivier Bitz to create a plan. Eighteen months later, a contract was drawn up and was signed on Wednesday, October 7.

Rules and regulations governing the space are similar to those used for cemeteries of other religions. Care for graves/tombs will rest with the families.