One of France’s top Muslim leaders has called for the number of mosques to double over the next two years to remedy a shortage of places of worship for the country’s millions of faithful, Gulf News reports.
Speaking at a weekend gathering of French Islamic organizations, where participants asked for respect in the face of a rise in anti-Muslim attacks, Dalil Boubakeur said the 2,200 mosques in the country did not adequately represent Europe’s largest Muslim community.
“We need double [that number] within two years,” the head of the French Muslim Council and rector of the Paris mosque said in the town of Le Bourget near the capital.
“There are a lot of prayer rooms, of unfinished mosques, and there are a lot of mosques that are not being built,” he added on Saturday at the Muslim gathering, billed as the largest in the Western world.
This annual convention of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF), which groups together more than 250 Muslim associations, comes just months after radical gunmen killed 17 people in and near Paris.
Since then, there has been a marked rise in Islamophobia in France, with 167 acts against mosques or threats recorded in January alone compared to just 14 in the same month last year.
Apart from physical acts, anti-Muslim sentiment in the country varies from mayors refusing to have mosques built to resistance to halal meals being served in prisons or schools.
Participants at the gathering — which, while organized by the UOIF, a group close to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, ranged from liberal to ultraconservative — denounced violence committed in the name of Islam.
“We are loyal to our country, France. We love God, we love our prophet, but we also love the French Republic,” said Amar Lasfar, head of UOIF.
Boubakeur agreed, adding nevertheless that Muslims must also be respected in France.
“Islam is no longer an Islam stemming from immigration, it is a national Islam that has the right to the recognition and consideration of the French population, just like other communities in France,” Boubakeur said.