The powerful Grand Mosque of Paris will pull out of a new, state-sponsored Muslim foundation, criticizing “interference” in how Islam is exercised, at a time of simmering tensions surrounding France’s second-largest faith, its spokesman said. The mosque, which represents some 250 Muslim associations, called in a statement for other Muslim groups to follow suit and “reject all attempts of stewardship” by the state.
Officially launched in December, the Foundation for Islam in France has a purely cultural aim, while a separate body linked to it is tasked with raising funds for mosque construction and training of imams. But the selection of a 77-year-old Catholic and former interior minister, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, to head the body has stirred controversy. “We’re happy to have the state create a foundation, but the president must be Muslim and it must be done in collaboration with Muslims; we don’t want it imposed,” said Slimane Nadour, the mosque’s communications director.
But Abdallah Zekri, secretary-general of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, an umbrella body, suggested the mosque was peeved that its head, Dalil Boubakeur, was not tapped as foundation president. “We need a foundation,” he said, suggesting Chevenement played a useful role in fundraising. Others are not so sure. France’s Muslim community, with an estimated 5 million people, is Western Europe’s largest, but it is splintered by ethnic and religious divisions. The country’s strongly secular creed and a spate of terrorist attacks also have helped to feed public wariness about Islam.
Source: Religion News Service (RNS)