Demands from Muslim leaders to double the number of mosques in France have been met with anger, and threatens to raise community tensions coming just months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. French commentators have argued that Muslim community leaders have lost control of young Muslims, and that simply building more mosques won’t fix the problem.
Speaking to a conference of French Muslims organised by L’Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF) recently, Dalil Boubakeur, the Rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris and President of the Council for Muslim Faith has said: “We have 2,200 mosques and we need double that within two years,” Le Figaro has reported. He added that for the “7 million Muslims” in France, the current number of mosques is “not enough.”
“There are a lot of prayer rooms, unfinished mosques, and there are many mosques that are not built, I think we need double mosques,” insisted Boubakeur.
His words were welcomed by Amar Lasfar, president of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked UOIF, who said: “It is necessary that the number of mosques reflects the number of Muslims. We have the right to build mosques.”
Many French Muslims believe that the French authorities actively block applications for new mosques, leading to overcrowding and prayers being held in the streets, which in turn attracts protest. There is also concern over the funding of the mosques, as under laws dating back to 1905 the French state does not normally fund the building of places of worship. However, new laws designed to curb terrorism have blocked foreign funding of organisations.
The Front National called the comments “provocative”. In a statement, the party added: “The financial assistance provided by some states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have links with the worst jihadist movements in the world, is a certain threat to national security.”
And Le Figaro has accused Dr Boubakeur, normally described as a moderate, and his “mainstream” colleagues of losing control of increasingly radicalised young French Muslims, arguing that “it is not the mass construction of new mosques that will change things”.
According to the Telegraph, commentator Yves Threard said that Muslim leaders “had no-one but themselves to blame” as they had only half-heartedly condemned the violence done in the name of Islam.
“Their disorganisation, their rivalries and their silence are guilty and they explain, in part, the growing influence of the most fanatical ideas,” he said.
It was a point directly addressed by Boubakeur at the conference, when he told the assembly “Muslims are often accused of not sufficiently denounced violence and terrorism, as if they were directly responsible, and this is wrong.”