• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Turn France's empty churches into mosques'

Ben McPartland · 15 Jun 2015, 12:00

Published: 15 Jun 2015 12:00 GMT+02:00

The question of the role of Islam in France is up for discussion on Monday as the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and members of his government held a conference with around 150 Muslim leaders.

The Muslim representatives, including imams and theologians, reportedly chosen because of their loyalty to the Republic, will meet the PM to discuss the concerns of their community.

Chief among them is the longstanding issue of the lack of places in France for Muslims to worship. In France there are currently 2,500 mosques with another 300 under construction but Dalil Boubakeur, Rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris, says the number falls far short of what is needed.

With upwards of five million Muslims in France – the largest population in Europe – Boubakeur and other imams suggest as many as 5,000 mosques are needed.

At risk of causing a stir on the very day the government wants to build ties on the ever-sensitive subject of Islam in France, Boubakeur says the answer lies in the France’s declining Catholic population.

He told Europe 1 radio that the country's empty churches could make ideal locations for mosques.

“It’s a delicate issue, but why not?” Boubakeur told Europe1 radio.

(Dalil Boubakeur, pictured here on the left, wants to see empty churches transformed into mosques. AFP)

France is home to around 40,000 churches for a population of around four million practicing Catholics. The idea of transforming former churches into mosques has been brought up in the past.

Last year far-right National Front councillors raised eyebrows when they suggested that's exactly what should happen to a former church in the northern town of Roubaix.

Calls for more mosques have been supported by France's Christian leaders as a “legitimate” demand.

“Muslims should, like Christians and Jews, be able to practise their religion,” Monseigneur Ribadeau-Dumas, spokesperson for the Bishops’ Conference of France, told French radio station Europe 1.

French PM Manuel Valls opened the talks on Monday insisting that the emphasis will be on building up close relations and that it was not the role of the secular government to get involved in religion.

“We must be very clear: the state does not take care of theology. There will be no laws, there will be no decrees, and no circulars to say what Islam should be."

Valls also said that hate speech and anti-Semitism "were not Islam".

Monday’s talks are aimed at giving new life to a group that represents the Muslim community with the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith), headed by Boubakeur, which is essentially deemed not up to the job.

The French government recognised it needed to open dialogue with the country’s Muslim community leaders in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, which were perpetrated by homegrown Muslim extremists.

Another sensitive subject on the agenda is the question of security around Muslim places of worship.

Story continues below…

The number of Islamophobic attacks has soared in France since the terror attacks with Muslim groups recording a six-fold increase since January.

The acts include violence against men and women, some of whom were pregnant, vandalism and destruction of Muslim places of worship or businesses and "Nazi" graffiti on mosques.

Also on the table will be the French government’s plan to teach 2,000 imams and chaplains about French secularism, known as laicité, but the difficulty is that not many of them speak French.

The government will also discuss issues like halal meat and Muslim rituals.

But one sensitive subject that will not be discussed is the growing issue of young Muslims being radicalised. The government says it does not want to stigmatize the religion.

 

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Pizza-delivery drones could be on their way to France
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's your pizza. Photo: AFP

No more need to deal with grumpy French waiters...

Heatwave drags on as France faces red-hot weekend
Photo: AFP

France will see searing temperatures on Friday and Saturday, as the heatwave warnings have been extended (once again).

Nice: The French capital of burqini fines
The beach in the Riviera city of Nice. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

It's one of only two of the 30 towns with a burqini ban in place to have actually given out any fines.

How to make France's famed Île Flottante dessert
Photo: Paul Oatway

France-based food blogger Laura Tobin shares her recipe for this delicious French dessert.

France's top court set to rule on burqini ban
Photo: bellmon1/Flickr

France's highest administrative court will decide this afternoon whether to overturn the burqini ban.

Corsica bushfire leaves 500 hectares scorched
Photos: AFP

A massive fire left 500 hectares of bushland in Corsica ravaged.

View from the rue
What do Parisians think of France's burqini bans?
Photo: AFP

With 64 percent of the French against burqinis at the beach, what do the Parisians think?

Almost half of France now on heatwave alert
Children cool off in Nice's fountains. Photo: AFP

Orange alerts - the second highest level - were issued to 43 départements as France's heatwave shows no signs of stopping.

France's top ten beaches to survive the heatwave
Photo: Gomezdegomera/Flickr

Temperatures are soaring... why not head to the beach?

Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
People taking part in activities in the Bassin de la Villette. Photo: AFP

If you fancy a rare chance to swim along the Paris canal system, here comes your chance.

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Education
French schools to ramp up security with 'mock attacks'
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Features
Where to go in France to find the best ice cream
National
Majority in France against burqinis on beaches
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Society
Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
Society
Five tips for surviving an internship in France
Politics
Déja vu? Familiar faces in France's presidential race
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Meet the man paying off burqini fines in France
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Eight tips on buying wine in a French supermarket
Society
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
National
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
2,751
jobs available