Muslim leader suggests turning empty churches into mosques

Stating need for more mosques for country’s Muslim population, France’s top Muslim official proposes to convert abandoned and empty Catholic churches into mosques.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris and president of the French Council of Muslim Faith, spoke to Europe 1 radio on Monday regarding the issue suggesting as many as 5,000 mosques are needed for the country’s Muslim population.

“It’s a delicate issue, but why not?” said Boubakeur, expressing his interest on the issue.

“There are currently about 2,500 mosques in France with another 300 under construction, but the number falls short of what is needed,” he said.

In an interview with Europe 1 radio,Dalil Boubakeur gave the example of the converted church into a mosque in Clermont-Ferrand, which was greatly welcomed by the local community.

Before the church was converted, the building had been abandoned for decades until given to the Muslim community in 2012.

"It's the same God, these are neighboring rites, fraternal, and I think that Muslims and Christians can coexist and live together,” he said.

Spokesperson for the Bishops’ Conference of France, Monseigneur Ribadeau-Dumas, also spoke to French radio, saying that Muslims just like Christians and Jews should be able to practice their religion.

This suggestion has been criticised, though, by the far-right National Front party. Florian Philippot, the party’s vice-president, claimed that “100 percent of places of radicalization are mosques,” and that more was not needed.

The first conference between the government and 150 Muslim community leaders took place five months after the Charlie Hebdo and kosher store attacks in Paris. The question of building closer ties with the Muslim community was discussed at the talks.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls emphasised that there was no link between extremism and Islam.

"We must say all of this is not Islam," he said. "The hate speech, anti-Semitism that hides behind anti-Zionism and hate for Israel... the self-proclaimed imams in our neighborhoods and our prisons who are promoting violence and terrorism..."

"Islam still provokes misunderstandings, prejudices, and is rejected by some citizens," he added. "Yet Islam is here to stay in France. It's the second largest religious group in our country."

Speaking at the conference, Boubakeur said the gunmen responsible for the attacks “belong to a different world” than the rest of the Muslim society.

Following the recent attacks in Paris, there has been an increase in anti-Muslim events.

TRTWorld and agencies