France: New secular Muslim federation

France: New secular Muslim federation

Marouane Bouloudhnine, a doctor from Nice, launched last week a secular French Muslim organization.  He rejects the label of 'the Muslim CRIF' (French Jewish umbrella organization), since he says they're mature enough not to copy from others.  Bouloudhnine represents UMP on the city council and in 2007 co-founded the  Judeo-Muslim Friendship in the Alpes-Maritimes association.

The new federation created by Bouloudhnine and five others is called "Mosaic", secular federation for Muslim citizens, and was registered earlier this year, though Bouloudhnine says they've been working on it for two and a half years.  In 2007 they launched a federation in the PACA region (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur). 

The goal of the new association is to create a secular and Republican institutional framework to represent the silent majority who want to assert their identity which has been taken over by a minority.  The vast majority of French Muslims reject being forced to choose between the loss of identity and being all-religious.  According to Bouloudhnine, if there would be no such secular framework, nobody but the extremists will talk in five years.

They expect to take two years to set everything up and to organize a national congress in 2010, with a national council of 150 people and an ethic committee.  Today they represent 40 associations.  They intend to work in the areas of education, training, housing, employment and taking back the national identity.  Bouloudhnine says that the challenge in the next decade is to move from a culture of opposition to peaceful democracy in order to live together in the Republic.

In an interview in Le Figaro Bouloudhnine said today Muslims are represented only by religious bodies but that people are not defined solely by religion.  Representing Muslims only in the religious aspect harmed Muslims in general, and today most Muslims in France are not practicing.  Bouloudhnine also said that they do not accept any funding from foreign countries and that they benefit from state subsidies.  They would like to become the preferred partner for the authorities, to be a 'think tank', a force for proposals.  They want to be a sounding board on a national level for acts which concern the Muslims in France.

Bouloudhnine says the project of uniting the associations is very complicated and he calls on everybody to join, including non-Arabs and non-Muslims.
This past week also saw the launch of the Conference of French Imams in Drancy. The launch was chaired by Christine Boutin, Minister of Housing, in the presence of various mayors and local officials, as well as diplomats from Arab countries and the United States, the president of CRIF and the rabbi of Paris.  Notably missing were representatives of the Interior Ministry, the Catholic Church and the CFCM.

The new body is headed by Hassan Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy.  It includes forty imams in the Paris region and focuses on interreligious dialog, promoting Islam and monitoring imams.

The young imam is supported by the municipality, who sees in him an icon of living together, as well as the Jewish community, but he does not have unanimous support.  There are those among the Muslim community and public officials who don't think he's representative and think that he comes from a Syrian fundamentalist movement.

Sources: Nice-Matin, Le Figaro, Le Monde (French), h/t le blog laiciste

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