Reuters is reporting that the Union des Organizations Islamiques de France (UOIF), representing the global Muslim Brotherhood in France, has “expressed sadness” at the decision Saturday by the Grand Mosque of Paris to boycott the elections to France’s Muslim Council (Conseil Français du Culte Musulman – CFCM), saying the boycott would harm the council. The Reuters report explains the Grand Mosque leader’s objections to the upcoming elections:
Dalil Boubakeur, the Grand Mosque rector who has headed the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) since 2003, said the June 8 poll would be unfair since delegates allowed to vote would be chosen according to the prayer space in their mosques. “This is not the way to organise Islam in France,” said Boubakeur, who said the voting system ensured the Grand Mosque’s national network of about 100 mosques would end up far behind other networks that have been building many new mosques. A statement by the Mosque’s national network announcing the boycott called the system an “absurd electoral mechanism.” Behind the poll dispute was a struggle for influence in the 5-million-strong community, Europe’s largest Muslim minority, between the Algerian-backed Grand Mosque network and a Moroccan-backed movement keen to gain control of the CFCM….The Grand Mosque network accounts for 15 percent of prayer space in France but claims it is the country’s oldest and best established Islamic group.
Current French President Nicholas Sarkozy played a key role in establishing the CFCM in May 2003 which, despite having no legal status, is seen as the de-facto representative of Muslims in France. The current president of the CFCM is the mufti of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, who was installed by Sarkozy before elections were held in 2003 in which the UOIF scored unexpectedly well. The Grand Mosque is generally considered to represent the most moderate strain of Islam in France and is associated with the largely wealth and secular Algerian community there. What the UOIF hopes to gain in this dispute process is not yet clear.