Complaining about a severe shortage in worshipping places, Dalil Boubakeur the president of the French Muslim Council & Rector of Paris’ grand Mosque asked for the number of mosques to double over the next two years, to provide adequate number of places of worship for millions of Muslims in the country.
“We need to double (that number) within two years,” he said.
“There are a lot of prayer rooms, of unfinished mosques, and there are a lot of mosques that are not being built,” he added.
Boubakeur was speaking during the 32nd edition of the Annual gathering of French Muslims a four-day event that brings together more than 250 Muslim associations from across the country.
The event, offered French Muslims a platform to discuss several topics of interest, including recent decisions taken by the Interior ministry against radicalization.
The urgent need for worshipping houses for the Muslim minority, the largest in Europe, was among the key issues discussed.
Amar Lasfar, president of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF), which organizes the gathering, agreed.
“The number of mosques must reflect the number of Muslims (in France),” he said.
According to Boubakeur, there are an estimated 7 million Muslims in France. The official figures estimate around 5 million.
Under France’s secularism laws, the state is prohibited from directly financing the building of places of worship, while the French government has also sought recently to prevent the funding of mosques by foreign states.
However, Lasfar noted that “fewer and fewer” mayors of French towns and cities “systematically oppose the construction of mosques”, which could make their construction easier.
“We have the right to build mosques, (the right) that mayors do not oppose it,” he added.
French Muslims’ calls for more mosques were supported by French Christian leaders as a “legitimate” demand.
“Muslims should, like Christians and Jews, be able to practise their religion,” Monsignor Ribadeau-Dumas, spokesperson for the Bishops’ Conference of France, told French radio station Europe 1.
Boubaker used the conference to appeal for greater respect for the country’s Muslim population.
“Islam is no longer an Islam stemming from immigration, it is a national Islam that has the right to the recognition and consideration of the French population, just like other communities in France,” he said.
Participants at the gathering also denounced violence committed in the name of Islam.
“We are loyal to our country, France. We love God, we love our Prophet, but we also love the French Republic,” said Lasfar.
(Source: On.Islam, Telegraph, Yahoo)