Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith and imam of the Grand Mosque of Paris, said at a convention this weekend that the country’s 2,200 mosques were insufficient to accommodate its increasing Muslim population. Boubakeur, who estimates there are seven million Muslims in France, stated: “We need double [the number of mosques] in two years.”
However, Florian Philippot, one of five vice-presidents in Marine Le Pen’s far-right party, stated: “100% of places of radicalization are mosques” in a television interview with French news channel iTele.
Philippot also claimed that to build the number suggested by Boubakeur “would mean three mosques a day, a mosque every eight hours — it would be the largest construction project in France.”
American thinktank the Pew Research Center estimates there to be 4.7 Muslim in France, constituting 7.5% of the total population and one of the largest Muslim populations in Western Europe along with Germany. Exact numbers are hard to determine, since religious affiliation is considered a private matter and not required in French census data.
Boubakeur did not suggest how the new mosques might be funded, and state funding of places of worship is forbidden in France. Philippot raised questions over potential backers of new mosques, which he linked to Arab countries with an interest in controlling the influence of Islam in France.
“We know that there is a game of influence between foreign countries that fund mosques: Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia,” he said.
In a previous statement, the National Front said financial support by foreign states with links to “the worst jihadist movements in the world” posed a threat to national security.
Boubakeur’s comments were made at the annual meeting of the Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UIOF), an umbrella body for more than 250 Muslim groups in France.
In January this year, 167 acts or threats against mosques were reported, compared to just 14 last January. Conference attendees called for greater respect and integration for French Muslims.
“We are loyal to our country, France. We love God, we love our Prophet, but we also love the French Republic,” said Amar Lasfar, head of the UIOF.