I checked out the annual get-together of the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France yesterday, held at the Le Bourget exposition grounds. The UOIF rencontre has been the biggest single annual event bringing together Muslims in France since the 1980s, with several tens of thousands attending over four days (coming from all over France, as well as Belgium and elsewhere). The UOIF is one of the major Islamic umbrella organizations in the country, almost exclusively Maghrebi in composition—mostly Tunisian and Moroccan—and with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (it is an affiliate of the pro-MB Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe). It is by no means representative of France’s four-odd million identity Muslims, the majority of whom are not practicing. And the UOIF has been considered the most “Islamist” of the country’s large Islamic federations, though has adopted a generally moderate rhetoric and striven to go mainstream, or be seen as such, despite some of its liaisons dangereuses in the Arab-Muslim world. The UOIF was in the news last week, with the government—demogogically profiting from the events in Toulouse and out to score points with hard right voters—banning six foreign preachers from entering France to speak at its event (among them the Egyptian-Qatari Yusuf al-Qaradawi). Sarkozy has had it out for the UOIF for the past five years, though hardly out of principle or distaste for its religious orientation, as he embraced the organization as Minister of Interior early in the last decade and promoted it within the newly created Conseil Français de Culte Musulman (the UOIF winning a plurality of the vote in the CFCM’s first election in 2003). What really peeved Sarkozy was the UOIF’s leader supporting François Bayrou’s presidential candidacy in 2007. Impardonnable !
I had attended the UOIF rencontre twice before, in 1995 and 2008. What struck me four years ago was how it was more an Islam en France event—of an Islam in France, an extraneous cultural import—than an Islam de France—a specifically French-style Islam. The vast majority of women were in hijabs and there was much Arabic spoken (as could be overheard), a sign that many of those present were born and raised in the Maghreb, not France. It was more a first-generation crowd than second. There was a big difference this time. The majority of women were veiled—though not a single one with a niqab—but many were not. And though there were clearly many bledards (recent immigrants from the Maghreb) those in attendance appeared to be more second-generation/raised in France. And there were a fair number of black Africans (though hardly any Français de souche). The UOIF was said to be in decline as an organization, that it had become an empty shell, but that wasn’t the impression one had yesterday. Here are some photos I took.
Converted hangers at the airport (above), now used for events. Le Bourget was one of the main Paris airports until the mid-1970s. Now it’s just for private and official planes.
Above: Association of Tunisians from the Two Shores, i.e. from here and there. The responsable of the stand got quite agitated at my taking photos. Wanted to make sure I hadn’t taken any of him or anyone else in the stand. Said he’d been anti-Ben Ali but acted like one of ZABA’s flics…
Tunisia: the revolution of the people.
Grigny has one of the most ill-reputed cités in the Paris region. It could use a good mosque.
But of course. No such get-together would be complete without it…
There were several Israel-bashing stands. It was the only geopolitical issue present at the event. French politics were entirely absent. Not a single political party or candidate was present in any shape or form.
Books in Arabic for the bledards.
But most were in French.
Islam Denounces Terrorism.
“According to the Quran, Muslims, Jews, and Christians must live in harmony.” There was no Jew-hating literature present whatever, not even hidden away in the Arabic shelf.
For the Love of Jesus I Embraced Islam.
Books for the children…
…and their parents.
Table of contents (self-explanatory).
Sexual weaknesses of women…
Ibn Taymiyyah: 13th-14th C. theologian. Not an inspiration for contemporary modernity-seeking moderates.
Shaykh Abdelhamid Kishk: 20th C. Egyptian preacher. Not exactly an inspiration for moderates either.
All the bookshops on Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud (Paris’ “Islamic street”) were present.
Islamophobia is not an opinion, it is an offense! Defend your rights…
Not to speak out is to consent. In the face of Islamophobia, react!
Most of the t-shirts at this stand being in English, we thought it was an outfit from England or the Netherlands. But they’re French and with an international market (so they said), thus the English.
Become a happy home owner from €16,000 down payment and up (and financed the Islamic way). In Morocco, of course.
For those with more cash on hand…
…and yet more.
The stand rep explained the halal method to us. Marine Le Pen should have been there. Sarkozy & Co too.
The trail of the army of Muslims from Medina to Badr (624 AD).
The two dudes on the right: “Camembert” et le Kabyle (inside joke).
Rare Turkish stand.
Bismillah before eating and alhamdulillah after. Great slogan!
The auditorium. Seating for around 1,500. The speaker here: Larbi Kechat, imam of the Adda’wa Mosque on Rue de Tanger in Paris 19e. Minister of Interior Pasqua, deeming him to be some kind of threat, put him under detention for a year in 1994-95. He hasn’t threatened a person or thing since (or before, FTM).
Speakers from Sahm Al-Nour.
In the espace jeunesse (different hall).
Higher education (including grandes écoles).
Association of Muslim students at Sciences Po. They were quite affected by Richard Descoings’ death last week (one of the students with whom I spoke was admitted to the school thanks to his affirmative action scheme).
Tariq Ramadan, a UOIF favorite, speaking in the espace jeunesse. Impossible to get inside the hall (thus the photo taken from outside). He spoke in the larger auditorium on Saturday night.
Member of the volunteer staff, sporting the colors of Free Syria.
Heading back to the car.
Next big event at Le Bourget: the Paris Air Show.