French mosque fund starts work after political delays

October 17, 2007

President Nicolas Sarkozy at a Paris Grand Mosque iftar dinnerBuilding mosques has become a hot topic this year in several European countries. One of the issues is whether foreign funds, mostly coming in from Middle Eastern states without any official supervision, might be used secretly to build or finance mosques preaching radical Islam.

The French government has come up with an interesting way to handle this problem by creating a semi-official Foundation for Islamic Works. It is meant to take in donations from home or abroad and distribute them among the different organisations in the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM). Its books would be open and inspected by the state, ensuring the whole procedure is transparent. This would not stop donors from contributing directly, but it should limit it, officials say.

The foundation was actually announced in March 2005 but political rivalries leading up to last May’s presidential election put it on hold for two years . The foundation’s board has now held its first meeting.

The political wrangling behind the foundation says a lot about the active role the French state plays in dealing with Islam in France. Could this be a model for other countries?

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