Hardliners make gains in French Muslim vote
A hardline Islamic group has gained ground inside France's official Muslim council following weekend elections boycotted by the moderate Paris mosque.10 June 2008
PARIS - A hardline Islamic group has gained ground inside France's official Muslim council following weekend elections boycotted by the moderate Paris mosque, interior ministry results showed Monday.
The Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UOIF) has emerged as "the big winner from the withdrawal of the Great Paris Mosque" federation after Sunday's vote by 1,042 mosques and prayer houses, a ministry statement said.
Considered part of the global Muslim Brotherhood movement which seeks to introduce elements of Islamic law by political means, the UOIF took 30 percent of the vote, making it the second force on the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM).
It came behind the Moroccan-linked Rally of French Muslims (RMF) which won 43 percent of votes, and ahead of the Turkish Muslim federation on 12 percent, official figures showed.
The CFCM's 41 elected and 17 permanent board members now vote on June 22 to elect a new head since the two-term incumbent, the moderate rector of the Paris mosque Dalil Boubakeur, is not standing.
The Muslim council was set up five years ago by then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy to bring together the rival currents in French Islam.
But tensions between Algerians, the larger community with an estimated 3.5 million people in France, and Moroccans, numbered at one million, have hobbled the project from the start.
In the latest of a string of crises, the Algerian-linked Paris mosque decided to boycott the vote in protest at "unfair" voting rules which it said favoured the Moroccan community's smaller, out-of-town mosques.
In addition to hands-on duties - organising the pilgrimage to Mecca, appointing prison chaplains - the CFCM was intended to sever French Islam from foreign influences and keep tabs on Islamic fundamentalists by including them.
But five years on the council is accused of failing the country's five million Muslims, while giving a foothold to the radical UOIF.
[AFP / Expatica]