PARIS – The annual gathering of Muslim in the French city Le Bourget has attracted thousands of visitors, seeking to recharge their religious batteries before the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
In addition to lectures, “they come to all: entrepreneurship, health, humanitarian … And then there is the souk, the fair,” Amar Lasfar, president of the Union of Islamic organizations of France (UOIF), told Agence France Presse (AFP).
“Faith and Fair have always lived together, to pray but also eat, stock, that’s life,” argued the leader.
Organized by UOIF, Le Bourget, the largest Islamic conference in France, opened last Friday.
Themed “Together We make the Future”, the four-day conference discusses a host of topics of interest for the Muslim community in France.
It will run from May 13 to May 16 and will broadcast on Iqraa TV for free during this period.
The event is expected to draw 150,000 visitors annually. Le Bourget’s attendants will be able to visit a 15,000 square meter exhibition space in which typical products from the Arab and Muslim world will be displayed.
Coming six months after Paris attacks last November 13, the event is expected to witness discussions on French Muslims and engagement in politics.
“I tell my brethren: a citizen must do politics, but not in the name of religion,” Lasfar said, rejecting any claims of being connected to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
“Here in Bourget, people come to shout loudly that they are citizens first, and then the Muslims,” he added.
Coming less than a month from the beginning of Ramadan, expected next June 6, the event will attract visitors seeking investment in Islamic finance or construction of mosques, food or clothing.
“It’s a tradition, we are Muslims, we love to meet,” a young man with bushy beard said.
Charitable works, including support for Syrian refugees, are well represented.
Using an inflatable boat, life jackets, barbed wire and a child’s security blanket, Islamic Relief has established a very visual installation to educate visitors on the calamity of refugees.
Le Bourget has become a fixture in the French calendar, a chance for Muslims to meet, hear speeches from intellectuals and scholars.
Thousands of Muslims came in droves to the annual gala, going through a miscellany of books and items on display, attending lectures and vying in contests for the memorization of the Qur’an.
Thousands of Muslims from across Europe attend the annual activities, with young women in their unmistakable hijabs and enthusiastic young men making up the bulk of attendees.
France is home to some six to seven million Muslims, the largest Muslim minority in Europe.