France: Muslim countries vying for influence on local Muslims

A number of Arab and Muslim countries are engaged in all-out power struggles to control the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), to elect a new complete lineup in June.

"The war of consulates has become quite overt," Lhaj Thami Breze, Chairman of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF), told

"All sorts of tactics are being used: money, temptation and even threats."

The CFCM, France's official Muslim representative body, will hold its third general elections on June 8.

Some 5,232 mosque representatives will cast their ballot to elect a 65-member general assembly which will elect in turns a 17-member board.

The council's board will then elect a president.

The run-up to the elections has seen fierce battles to gain influence inside the CFCM, mainly between Algerian and Moroccan-affiliated groups.

Sources from Paris Grand Mosque, which is close to Algeria, accuse Moroccan authorities of trying to capture control of the representative body.

"The Moroccan consulate has allocated €50,000 for each of the 25 areas which have representatives in the CFCM," he said.

The CFCM has been headed by Dalil Boubakeur, the Paris Grand Mosque rector, since its establishment in 2003 with the support of then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sources say the government is aware of the Algerian-Moroccan power struggle and the Interior Ministry has recently sent a delegation to both countries to bring it to an end.

Turkey and some Gulf countries are also engaged in the same race to secure a foothold in the CFCM, according to well-placed sources within the minority.

France is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly seven million, mostly from North African and Turkish backgrounds.

Leadership Race

The power struggle has intensified in recent weeks.

Officials from the Grand Paris Mosque have leaked reports of a possible boycott of the upcoming CFCM polls.

"It is our way to protest the current electoral process," Abdullah Zekry told IOL.

He said that a number of mosques have recently expanded their areas to claim more representation in the CFCM.

Rivals, however, described the boycott threat as an attempt to pressure Muslims into reelecting Boubakeur for a third term.

"This is their way of forcing their rules on the election process," Haydar Demiryurek, head of the Steering Committee of France's Turks and deputy head of CFCM, told IOL.

He argued that Boubakeur, who has expressed a desire to run for a third three-year term, no longer enjoys the support of the CFCM members.

Demiryurek has already announced his candidacy to succeed Boubakeur.

Foad Alawi, deputy head of the UOIF, is also vying for the same prestigious post.

Well-placed sources argue that Demiryurek is not very popular among the CFCM incumbent board members, which has only three members of Turkish background.

Boubakeur is reportedly favored by both French and Algerian governments.

Source: Islam Online (English)

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