French Muslim leaders upbeat after council poll

French Muslim leaders expect a fresh start for their official council
after elections boycotted by its outgoing leadership raised hopes of
taming some internal rivalries that have paralysed its work for the
past five years.
The election on Sunday, dominated by a
Moroccan-backed mosque network that took 43.2% of the vote, was the
third since the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) was launched
five years ago but the first with no winner picked in advance.
CFCM head Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris Grand Mosque network,
boycotted the poll after the French government did not back his
election as it did in 2003 and 2005.
Boubakeur said he was protesting against the voting method.
is a new beginning,” declared CFCM secretary-general Haydar Demiryurek,
head of the Turkish mosque network CCMTF. The new leadership would be
elected in a second round on June 22.
Anouar Kbibech, whose Rally of
French Muslims (RMF) took first place in the vote, described the CFCM’s
2008-2011 mandate as its “adulthood” after its infancy and adolescence.
I say we’re adults now, that means we’re mature and vaccinated. We’ve
seen what happened in the first two mandates,” he told journalists late
on Sunday after results were announced.
Paralysed by internal
rivalries, the CFCM has little to show for its first five years. By
contrast, regional councils such as one in Lyon have organised Muslim
cemeteries and slaughterhouses and conducted a productive dialogue with
other religions.
The reasons were multiple – power struggles,
ideological disputes, French government interference, rivalries between
Algeria and Morocco for influence over Muslims in France – and gave the
CFCM a poor image among France’s 5mn Muslims.
Speaking as if his
group had already won the presidency, Kbibech said: “We’re ready to
join all forces in the CFCM so in three years, we can tell the Muslim
community: this is what we have achieved. We didn’t just navel gaze for
three years, we really did something for Muslims.”
One priority was building proper mosques to replace dingy “basement mosques” set up decades ago by immigrants, he said.
CFCM should also act as an authority certifying halal meat sales and
travel bureaus for the haj pilgrimage to Makkah, services that could
generate fees to finance CFCM activities.
There are frequent complaints about dubious halal meat and unreliable haj tour programmes.
“Some 27,000 French went on haj last year in uncertain conditions,” he said.
also mentioned imam training, a high priority for the government which
wants to ensure these prayer leaders – most of whom are now
foreign-born and not French speakers – preach an Islam compatible with
French law and society.
A post-election statement by the Union of
French Islamic Organisations (UOIF), which scored 30.2%, hinted there
still could be tough times ahead for the CFCM.
The UOIF, which is
close to the Muslim Brotherhood, wants a rotating council presidency to
avoid playing the perennial second fiddle to Kbibech’s larger RMF group.
It called for a reform “to let the main points of view take responsibility and to protect the CFCM from foreign interference”.
The “foreign interference” reference was a dig against the strong support the RMF got from Rabat. – Reuters