French Muslim groups vie to dominate council

20th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 20 (AFP) - Groups representing Muslims in France, home to the largest Islamic community in western Europe, were on Monday jockeying to see who would dominate the government-created French Council of the Muslim Faith, with a grouping backed by Morocco seen as likely to prevail.

PARIS, June 20 (AFP) - Groups representing Muslims in France, home to the largest Islamic community in western Europe, were on Monday jockeying to see who would dominate the government-created French Council of the Muslim Faith, with a grouping backed by Morocco seen as likely to prevail.

Negotiations were under way between the three largest groups the day after elections to the body, known as the CFCM from its French initials. The vote was being closely watched to see if groups considered more conservative on issues such as Islamic militancy and the wearing of headscarves by women would come out on top.

The groups were in particular due next Sunday to elect a new president to succeed Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Great Paris Mosque (GMP), who is considered both to represent moderate views and to be close to the Algerian government.

In an initial round of voting to decide the make-up of the CFCM, held on Sunday, the National Federation of French Muslims (FNMF), considered close to the Moroccan authorities, came out on top with 44 percent of votes. However the federation is deeply split over several issues.

Boubakeur's Great Paris Mosque group won 23 percent of the vote, well up on the 15 percent it won two years ago.

The third group, the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF), considered to be close to the militant Muslim Brotherhood, won only 23 percent of votes as against 32 percent when the state Council was set up two years ago.

A fourth smaller group representing Turkish Muslims won 2.3 percent.

When the Council was created in 2003, by then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, political manoeuvring gave the post of president to Boubakeur, but in this year's election the composition of its executive board is supposed to reflect the influence of the various currents and groups.

Although France's censuses do not record data about religion, the country is estimated to be home to some five million Muslims -- about eight percent of the country's total population.

The largest communities are from former French colonies in North Africa -- Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

Boubakeur, who is probably the French Muslim leader best known to the public at large in France, has so far refused to say whether he will seek to be president of the Council for a second term.

Sarkozy, who caused a stir when he had the Council set up, is once again interior minister, having been reappointed to his former post in a government shake-up early this month.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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