The tiny minority of extremists is growing in influence in France. From CNSNews.com, and Nicolei:
French officials have noted an increase in Islamic radicals taking over Paris area mosques in the last year, with 32 mosques now under the control of extremists.
According to a study by undercover police forces, the number of radical mosques has increased by 10 in the last year. Officials say there are a total of 373 mosques or prayer groups in Paris and its suburban areas.
The study was reported in the French daily Le Monde. Police officials have declined to comment further on the findings.
According to Olivier Roy, a senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, the radicalization of mosques is a result of the growing Salafism movement.
This neo-fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, which uses doctrines from the Saudi Arabian Wahhabis, appeals particularly to young, second-generation Arabs.
The Salafist movement takes its name from the Arabic as-salaf as-salih (pious forebears), referring to the prophet Mohammed and his associates.
“Salafism, or radical Islam, addresses young people who do not have the culture of their grandparents associated with Moroccan Islam, Tunisian Islam and Pakistani Islam,” Roy said.
“The radicals address young people who feel rejected by western society. Those who fall under the influence of Salafism are the second generation, who experience the double phenomenon of being alienated from traditional Islamic culture and also from French society.”
The increase of this form of Islam is also common to other urban areas in France as well as across the Channel in Britain. In France, there are some five million Muslims, many of them immigrants and children of immigrants from North African Arab countries.
“Older generation imams [clerics], who have practiced a much more moderate Islam, become more isolated as radicals take over,” said Roy.
“They do not have the support of authorities and if there is a conflict in the mosque, the one or two people or family who created the mosque can be expelled or forced to close it down.”
Despite the creation last year of an official French Council of Muslims, mosques here often remain of the grassroots type, essentially prayer groups with no official status.
According to the police, extremists take over by first criticizing the older generation’s interpretation of holy texts and then bringing up political issues such as the ban of Muslim headscarves in French public schools, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and discrimination against Arabs.
To maintain and increase community support, the radicals open day-care centers and nursery schools associated with the mosques and undertake the teaching of Arabic and the Quran.
Some Salafist radicals are believed to be linked to al-Qaeda and other terror groups and the increase of radical-controlled mosques is regarded as a threat to security in France and Europe.
Roy said it was important to note that “the large mass of the movement is purely religious but among these are the minority, who are known as jihadists or political activists who are proponents of a holy war.”
“Not all Salafists are terrorists but all terrorists are Salafists,” he added.
Roy said there was no foreign country behind the radicals.
“While religious radicalization is linked to Saudi Arabia political radicalization is not linked to the Saudis,” he argued.
“The phenomenon is not linked to a country but it is a global one, and developing particularly strongly in Western Europe.”