Friday, October 03, 2008

Divisions within French Islam Deepen at Ramadan

FRANCE 24: As the month of Ramadan came to an end, FRANCE 24 went behind the scenes at French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) and witnessed the divisions within French Islam.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan has just ended and our reporter, James André, has been breaking the fast with Muslims around the country. What he found was a fight for influence among preachers sent to France by rival countries. In 2002, French President Nicolas Sarkozy - interior minister at the time - created a governing body for Islam in France, the CFCM. It was intended to be the face and voice of the country's Muslim community. But who should run it? Moroccan-born Muslims? Algerian-born Muslims? Both countries are widely represented within the French Muslim community. They've been vying for the top spot and, six years on, there is an ongoing turf war.

The town of Evry, on the outskirts of Paris, is home to France's biggest mosque. Every evening during the month of Ramadan, thousands of faithful gather here to pray before breaking the fast. The crowds are so large the mosque had to call in two extra imams from Morocco. The rector of the mosque explains that an agreement was signed with France's Interior Ministry to allow Morocco to officially send imams to meet France's mosques' needs. One hundred and fifty preachers have been sent to France for Ramadan. One of them was hand-picked by the Religious Affairs Ministry. A graduate of one of Morocco's top Koranic schools, he belongs to the elite of his country's religious establishment. His mission is clear: to ward off extremist influences. 

After his sermon, the faithful have differing opinions. One of them approves: "It's a very good idea. Even the Imams who come from the Gulf are very well versed in religion. We'd like to see more initiatives like this one." But another had trouble understanding the speech: "Some of the faithful here come from Asia, or from Africa, and they have a hard time understanding Arabic, or don't understand it at all. So we'd like to have imams who speak French." Divisions within French Islam Deepen at Ramadan >>> | October 3, 2008

Please don’t forget to watch the video, which, unfortunately, I cannot embed.

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