The spacious and elegant Sahaba mosque building, in the heart of the middle-class suburb of Créteil in Paris, is known as “the mosque of the converts.”
About 150 Muslim conversion ceremonies are performed every year in the snow-white structure of the Sahaba mosque, with its intricate mosaics and a stunning 81-foot minaret, built in 2008 and a symbol of Islam’s growing presence in France.
According to a video by Muslim Converts Stories, the number of French people converting to Islam annually has increased significantly.
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While the number of converts remains relatively small in France, yearly conversions to Islam have doubled in the past 30 years, experts say.
Another report by the daily La Croix on August 25, citing a survey carried out by Pierre Schmidt on converts to Islam in France, says:
“There have always been conversions to Islam, explained Didier Leschi, head of the bureau for religions at the Home Office. What is new today is the kind of movements the young converts are turning to.”
“According to the information we receive from the Muslims in charge of associations, he specified, there may be some 10 conversions to Islam daily”. That makes an average 3,600 converts per year.
Many experts note the influence of celebrity converts, particularly soccer players.
Nicolas Anelka, who played for the French national team and whose parents came from Martinique, changed his name to Abdul-Salam Bilal Anelka when he converted to Islam in 2004.
Franck Ribéry, a popular player from northern France, converted to Islam in 2006 to marry a Muslim woman, Wahiba, and took the name Bilal Yusuf Mohammed.
French rapper Mélanie Georgiades, better known by her stage name Diam’s, also converted to Islam in 2009, saying she found serenity in Islam.
France is home to a Muslim community of more than six million, making about 9% of the country’s population, the largest in Europe.
According to Pew Research Center, three million foreign-born Muslims in France are largely from France’s former colonies of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. The number of Muslims in France will exceed 10% by 2030, the Center said.