French Imams Preach Against Violence At Friday Prayers
18 November 2015
By Tom Heneghan
Mosques across France held their weekly services on Friday in the shadow of
last week's Paris massacre by extremist militants, with sermons rejecting
violence and asking how some radical French Muslims could support it.
Before dawn, the government's announced crackdown on radical preachers led to
a search of a mosque in the west coast city of Brest, known for its imam's
hardline views, but police found no evidence of anything illegal.
The Grand Mosque of Paris called off a planned rally against terrorism there,
due to be held after midday prayers and attended by the city's mayor Anne
Hidalgo, because police said they could not assure its security.
In an unusual step, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) - the main
umbrella group for mosque associations - and several of its member groups
urged their imams to denounce the attacks in their sermons and distributed
Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) movement, most of
them French or Belgian nationals, killed 129 people on Friday evening.
France's five million-strong Muslim minority is the largest in Europe and
about eight percent of the population.
''These criminal acts were perpetrated by children of France who claim to
follow Islam and consider themselves martyrs in a jihadist enterprise,'' said
the ''khutba'' (sermon) in French distributed by the CFCM to be read in all
''We must never tire of saying and repeating that authentic Islam is light
years away from the hateful ideology of these terrorist criminals,'' it said.
''They are the 'khawarij' of modern times,'' it added, comparing the killers
to violent extremists in early Islam who fought against the faith's
The CFCM sermon said French Muslims ''proclaim our full support for the
values of the Republic'' and prayed to God ''to preserve and bless France.''
''Good will is not enough''
Texts distributed by CFCM member organizations included both religious
arguments against violence, backed up by quotes from the Quran, and
discussions of problems facing French Muslims.
Rejecting the simple response that the killers were not genuine Muslims, the
text for imams in Lyon said: ''Good will is not enough, nor are nice
Imams had to understand modern French society and interpret the Quran to make
it relevant to today's Muslims, it said, and theologians must do more to
refute ISIS's ideology.
The government must also help French Muslims by supporting higher education
for imams and hiring more Islamic chaplains for prisons, it added.
The Union of French Mosques, a network mostly for believers of Moroccan
origin, said French Muslims should hold rallies and meetings with other
faiths to counter ISIS's efforts ''to find among the French support for their
The mosque search in Brest, on the far northwestern tip of France, followed a
pledge by the government to shut down mosques that preach hate.
The mosque's imam, Rachid Abou Houdeyfa, has gained notoriety for videos of
his sermons on YouTube, including one where he tells children that music is
forbidden and those who listen to it will be ''turned into monkeys and
Several dozen police on the search found nothing illegal and nobody was
interrogated, local officials said.
The search illustrated the difficulties officials will have tracking radical
preachers because some espouse what mainstream Muslims would consider extreme
religious views but reject violence. Houdeyfa has publicly denounced the
''The search was conducted ... in a full respect of the place of worship and
without any incident,'' Houdeyfa said in a statement.
French media have reported mosque searches in several other locations,
including in the Paris and Lyon areas, as police use their powers under the
state of emergency to check on local congregations.