'Islamophobic populism worries Muslims in France'

Head of Turkish-Muslim group voices concern at rising Islamophobic tendencies ahead of 2022 French polls

Yusuf Ozcan  | 04.05.2021 - Update : 06.05.2021
'Islamophobic populism worries Muslims in France' Bekir Altas, secretary-general of the Turkish-Muslim association IGMG


Praising Strasbourg Municipality in northeastern France for offering 2.5 million euros ($3 million) for the construction of a mosque, Bekir Altas, secretary-general of the Turkish-Muslim association IGMG, expressed concern at the rising Islamophobic tendencies driven by political exigencies.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency during his visit to French city Strasbourg near the German border, Altas also dismissed accusations against the IGMG by the politicians.

He said that the construction of the Eyup Sultan Mosque in Strasbourg, near the German border, will continue, even as its completion needs an additional 8 million euros ($9.6 million). The total construction cost has been pegged to 30 million euros ($36 million).

Altas said that his organization has received donations from all over Europe for the construction of this mosque that included a historical contribution of 2.5 million euros ($3 million) by the Strasbourg Municipality.

"With this decision, they specifically stated that there was no discrimination between Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic religious communities," he said.

President of Eyup Sultan Mosque Association Eyup Sahin told Anadolu Agency that in October 2020, they had requested financial assistance from the Strasbourg Municipality for the construction of the mosque and that the municipality accepted this request in March 2021.

Sahin said after this move created controversy, they decided to withdraw the request for assistance because elections were approaching and some politicians had turned the mosque into election propaganda.

He said that 70% of the construction of the mosque was completed and that the construction would be completed in a year.

Altas, said as presidential elections were due in France in 2022, Muslims do not want to become instrumental in the conflicts between the two major political parties in the country.

Imposition of charter populist decision

He stated that the imposition of the "charter of principles" of Islam in France, which they refused to sign because it alienates Muslims, is one of the populist decisions taken by the government.

“The state does not interfere with the internal affairs of religious communities in accordance with the principle of secularism. The state has no say in how a religious community will train and approve its imams, and in what values it will do its work," he said.

He said that they faced accusations and criticisms despite carrying out their work transparently and within the framework of the law. Altas mentioned that Interior Minister Gerald Moussa Darmanin has drawn a profile that does not reflect the truth about IGMG.

He said that Darmanin’s actions against the Muslim community were not normal. He said the controversial bill against separatism does not concern Muslims only but all religious communities as it violates the 1905 law on secularism.

“The religion-state relationship is being reshaped through Muslims. We see that we are actually in the process of how the understanding of secularism will be in France,” he added.

“We see that we are actually in the process of how the understanding of secularism will be in France. Will, there be an understanding of secularism in France that excludes religion from the public sphere, or an understanding of secularism that cooperates with religious communities," he said.

Eyup Sultan Mosque will be the biggest mosque in Europe when the construction is completed.

Built according to Ottoman architecture, on 15 acres of land, the complex will include a mosque for 3,000 people, conference halls, a school, and a library, as well as a 600-vehicle-capacity car park and a bicycle park.

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.