PARIS – Blending for decades in the secular country, French Muslims have stepped into the light to combat radicals’ false interpretations of Islam and connecting with the community to correct misconceptions.
“We were silent because we learned that in France religion is a private affair,” a joint statement published Sunday by a group of more than 40 Muslim lawyers, doctors and other professionals read, The Philadelphia Tribune reported on Wednesday, August 3.
“Now we must speak because Islam has become a public affair and the current situation is intolerable.”
The group added that French Muslims must move from the shadows to front and center, and take action because those representing Islam have lost touch with the young.
Affected by the secular values of France, Muslim leaders became unable to reach out, let alone represent, a younger generation of Muslims, some of them “the prey of jihadi Islam ideologues.”
With an estimated 5 million Muslims in France, the largest Muslim population in western Europe, Islam is the country’s second religion after Roman Catholicism.
Raphael Liogier, an expert on Islam at the prestigious Science Po University in Aix-en-Provence, said signs that Muslims are stepping into the fray may be the start of real change.
“They are under two injunctions: be quiet and at the same time take a position,” Liogier said.
“If they say nothing, one thinks they have accepted the attacks … Today, they consider that this double injunction is no longer manageable.”
Mohammed Karabila, president of the Muslim cultural center in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, where an elderly priest was killed, said the two attacks “made us understand.”
“The message is clear. They (IS) want to fracture us, fracture French society.”