French Muslim leader calls for doubling of number of mosques

Dalil Boubakeur said current number of 2,200 mosques in France did not adequately represent Europe’s largest Muslim community.

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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, reports Al-Arabiya.

Speaking at a weekend gathering of French Islamic organisations, 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 to 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 Saturday at the Muslim gathering, billed as the largest in the Western world.

This annual convention of the Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF), which groups together more than 250 Muslim associations, comes just months after jihadist 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.

France has long had a difficult relationship with its Muslim minority -- currently estimated at between four and five million -- that dates back to bloody struggles in its former North African colonies and the legacy of immigrants trapped in some of the country’s poorest districts.