Head of French Islam representative bodies: between novelties and continuity

In January, major changes occurred in central institutions in charge of the official representation of French Islam. Firstly, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris [La Grande Mosquéede Paris], Dalil Boubakeur, unexpectedly resigned after a 28 years mandate, invoking personal reasons.  Chems-eddine Hafiz, was appointed  his successor few days later. Under Algerian influence, the Federation of the Grand Mosque of Paris [La Fédération nationale de la Grande mosque de Paris]has long been a central interlocutor for French public authorities to deal with questions regarding the French “Muslim community”. Dalil Boubakeur’s father, Hamza Boubakeur ruled the mosque himself from 1957 to 1982. Such oligarchic management might explain some recurrent critics towards the federation accused of being an elitist institution cut from ordinary Muslims needs and, conversely, too close from both French and Algerian state.

Secondly,  the Federation of the Grand Mosque of Paris is one of the components of the French Council of Muslim Faith (CFCM or Conseil Français du Culte  Musulman), the French equivalent of the British Mosques and Imams Advisory Board (MINAB), which elections took place early this year. Created in 2003 as the representative institution  of Islam in France, the CFCM has not garnered popular support. Mohammed Moussaoui, President from 2008 to 2013, has been re-elected at the head of the Council for a period of 18 months in a rotating presidency, while two other federation’s leaders will take the head successively. The CFCM actions are undermined by internal divisions and competition of foreign Muslim countries to take over the leadership.

Both examples are emblematic of the French state State policies to control Islam as well of the challenge of  the institutionalization of French Islam.

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