The burqa/niqab commission in France auditions less-willing participants

As the French commission on niqab/burqa-wearing, led by André Gerin, heads to Lille, journalists expect more heated discussion as two niqab-wearing women and several imams will be auditioned.

Mahmoud Doua, imam and member of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF or l’Union des organisations islamiques de France) called for French Muslims to conform to “French culture.” Rémi Schwartz, spokesperson from the Stasi Commission in 2003 also commented on the importance of respecting individual choice. Others noted the complicated possibility of banning these coverings entirely.

Schools bode new path for Islam in France

News Agencies – September 24, 2009

As Islam in France becomes more established with a growing number of cemeteries and mosques, new attention is being given to private Islamic religious schools.

Three new Islamic schools have recently been announced – one in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, another in Marseille and a third in Toulouse. Most of these schools have been launched with support from the UOIF (the Union of French Islamic Organizations or the Union des organisations islamiques de France).

There are currently 650 students attending Islamic schools in France. The Averroès school in Lille is the only Muslim school in the country to have a formal contract with the state, and whose teachers are paid by the state.

Le Bourget, Europe’s largest and most popular Muslim convention, opens outside Paris

Le Bourget, organized by the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF), is considered the largest Muslim convention in Europe. The conference, which takes place every year in the northeastern Paris suburb of Le Bourget, has long been the best destination to raise funds to build mosques. Some 200,000 people, from France and other European countries, are expected to participate in the activities of the four-day gathering.

These two articles from examine the variety of services available at the Muslim Convention, from listening to scholars, to buying Islamic literature or clothes, to looking for a spouse. “Tens of young men and women come to Le Bourget to find a future husband or wife,” Maryam La’khdar, who has a special booth to facilitate relations between Muslim couples. Another group is selling t-shirts inscribed with 1330, the approximate number of Palestinians killed in the recent Israeli war on Gaza, to raise awareness and send supportive funds.

French Mosques Look to le Bourget to Raise Funds

Le Bourget, Europe’s largest gathering space for Muslims held annually, has become the destination of choice for French Muslims to raise funds to build mosques. This year’s four-day gathering, organized by the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF), ended on May 11.

Head of the UOIF rebuffs Bin Laden’s European Threat

Among the European Muslims to respond to Osama Bin Laden’s threats to punish European countries over the reprinting of cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad was Lhaj Thami Breze, head of the UOIF (Union of French Islamic Organizations). Breze stated, His [Bin Laden] threats are unacceptable in letter and spirit. Other European Muslim leaders, like Ibrahim Al-Zayyat of the Islamic Assembly in Germany, Kamal El-Helbawi of the London-based Center for the Study of Terrorism, Abdel Hamdi Hamdy of the Danish Islamic Shura Council and Abu Saed Ali of the Islamic League for Dialogue and Reconciliation in Spain, concurred.

Imam course at Catholic university sparks controversy

The president of France’s largest Muslim group, the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF), Thami Breze, defended a new course for would-be Muslim spiritual leaders at the Catholic Institute in Paris. Citing the strict separation of church and state, other French institutions including the Sorbonne, Paris 8, and other state universities have declined to be involved in the project. The UOIF had previously expressed reservations bout the course, but citing the importance of studying sociology, history of France, secularism, and civics, welcomed the initiative as a positive enrichment to would-be French Muslim religious advisors.

UOIF, Ignored by presidential candidates, hardens its position

In an unprecedented event, this year’s meeting of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France was ignored by the five primary French Presidential candidates. The meeting is strategically scheduled the week before elections. Attendance is seen as a liability for the candidates; the UOIF is seen by many non-Muslim French as responsible for discomforting protest and antagonism. The absence in particular of UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, is seen as the final assault in an unravelling relationship between him and French Muslims. Initially admired for his leadership in 2003 as Minister of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, French Muslims’ esteem for Sarkozy has declined since he abandoned the post and spoke in support of cartoon publication. A rare statement by UDF candidate Francois Bayrou, that it is “legitimate to give a place to a new family – Islam – when she arrives in the village,” deviated from the laicist left’s general antipathy or disinterest in religion. Muslims in France, the UOIF claims, are under incessant attack and in a state of anxiety. The UOIF’s consistent protests against the association of Islam with terrorism have been largely unproductive. The failure of politicians to respond to this situation will only lead to more protest and unrest. Layoffs and laws against the hijab in schools only worsen the situation for French Muslims, who have seen little progress in the movement to integrate Muslim immigrants into French society.

The UOIF denounces “the offensive of the Socialist Party”

The leaders of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF) were stunned by a press release from “the offensive of the Socialist Party” against their federation. After the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) became concerned about “the political and electoral usage of the debates surrounding Islam in France”, the UOIF denounced the platforms contained in a document published by the Socialist Party in the course of the electoral campaign; this document describes the UOIF as “fundamentalist”.

Caricatures : les organisations musulmanes hésitent à lancer des poursuites systématiques

Les tribunaux ne leur ont jamais donn_ gain de cause mais ces revers n’entament pas ” la confiance ” des organisations musulmanes fran_aises dans la justice de leur pays. Elles l’ont r_p_t_ _ la veille du proc_s contre Charlie Hebdo, mercredi 7 f_vrier, devant la 17e chambre du tribunal correctionnel de Paris. La Grande Mosqu_e de Paris, l’Union des organisations islamiques de France (UOIF) et la Ligue islamique mondiale ont port_ plainte contre l’hebdomadaire, apr_s la publication des caricatures danoises mettant en sc_ne le proph_te Mahomet, en f_vrier 2006. A la veille de la sortie de l’hebdomadaire, elles avaient tent_ d’emp_cher par r_f_r_ sa parution. En vain. Leur dernier d_boire judiciaire remontait _ 2002. Les organisations musulmanes et la Ligue des droits de l’homme poursuivaient, pour ” incitations _ la haine “, l’_crivain Michel Houellebecq. Dans des entretiens accord_s au mensuel Lire et au Figaro Magazine, _ l’occasion de la parution de son livre Plateforme, il d_clarait notamment : ” La religion la plus con, c’est quand m_me l’islam. Quand on lit le Coran, on est effondr_. ” Les plaignants avaient _t_ d_bout_s en premi_re instance et avaient renonc_ _ faire appel. Dans l’affaire des caricatures danoises, les organisations musulmanes ont choisi d’attaquer exclusivement Charlie Hebdo et non pas France Soir, premier quotidien en France _ avoir publi_ les dessins. ” […]

The Grand Mosque of Paris brings suit against « Charlie Hebdo »

Can the French justice system guarantee the “defense of the dignity of the Muslim religion”? The president of the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) thinks so. The CFCM president is Dalil Boubakeur, who is also rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris. One illustration, he says, is the court case which begins Wednesday, February 7 against “Charlie Hebdo”, following the magazine’s publication of the Danish artists’ caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. The Grand Mosque and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) made a complaint against the French magazine for “public injury to the dignity of a group of people on account of their religion.”