Organized by the country’s leading Muslim body, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), the initiative aims to stimulate dialogue about Islam and create a greater sense of “national cohesion”, a year after 17 people were killed in militant attacks in Paris targeting satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket
“The objective is to create a space where people can be together and meet normal Muslim worshippers and all of our fellow citizens,” CFCM president Anouar Kbibech told AFP.
The idea is to use the anniversary of the January 7 attacks to “highlight the real values of Islam, to set straight the clichés about links to violence and terrorism,” he said, describing the venture as a “gesture of openness”.
“Instead of dwelling on these tragic acts, it seemed more useful and important to celebrate ‘the spirit of January 11,” he said, referring to the date when millions of people took to the streets in a mass show of solidarity.
Following the November attacks, in which militants killed 130 people, France declared a state of emergency, which has seen police staging around 20 raids on Muslim places of worship. At least three have been closed on suspicion of radicalizing their members.
Dubbed “a brotherly cup of tea”, the initiative took different forms with local mosques handing out hot drinks and pastries, offering guided visits, putting on debates and calligraphy workshops, and even inviting people to attend one of the five daily prayers.
Although not all of France’s 2,500 mosques and places of worship took part, the most important ones are, including the Grand Mosque of Paris. The event comes after a year that saw a surge in anti-Muslim acts in France, some of which targeted places of worship, although the number was much lower after the November bloodshed than after those that took place in January.