PARIS – Debunking stereotypes, hundreds of French mosque are opening their doors this weekend, offering visitors a cup of tea and a chat about true Islam and Muslims, whose image has been shaken in the public by recent attacks.
“The idea is to use the anniversary of the January 7 attacks to “highlight the real values of Islam, Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Saturday, January 9.
“To set straight the clichés about links to violence and terrorism,” the head of the country’s leading Muslim body, added.
Held under the banner, “a brotherly cup of tea”, the initiative suggested opening the doors of all major French mosques to welcome visitors interested in knowing the true nature of Islam.
Inviting the public to hot drinks and pastries, the visitors will be offered guided visits, put on debates and calligraphy workshops, and even invited to attend one of the five daily prayers.
Held in most of the country’s 2,500 mosques and places of worship, the most important being the Grand Mosque de Paris, the initiative is planned to debunk myths about Islam.
It also aims at fostering greater national cohesion, a year after 17 people were killed by gunmen in Paris targeting satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
“Instead of dwelling on these tragic acts, it seemed more useful and important to celebrate “the spirit of January 11” Kbibech said, referring to the date when millions of people took to the streets in a mass show of solidarity.
The country’s six million Muslims have been facing increasing hatred since Paris attacks last January.
Reflecting growing anti-Muslim sentiments, the Paris-based Collective against Islamophobia in France organization revealed that Islamophobic acts in France have increased by 23.5 percent in the first six months of 2015, compared with the same period last year.
It warned that physical assaults increased by 500 percent and verbal attacks by 100 percent during the initial months of 2015, adding that women were among the first victims of Islamophobia.
In April, the National Observatory Against Islamophobia warned of an unprecedented increase in Islamophobic attacks in France during the first three months of 2015, rising by six-fold than in 2014.
Islamophobic actions soared by 500% compared to the same period in 2011, according to the observatory.