France’s top Muslim official has suggested turning empty or abandoned Catholic churches into mosques, saying as many as 5,000 are needed for the country’s Muslim population – the largest in Europe.
“It’s a delicate issue, but why not?” Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris and the president of the French Council of Muslim Faith, told Europe 1 radio on Monday.
There are currently about 2,500 mosques in France with another 300 under construction, but the number falls short of what is needed, he said. With roughly 5 million Muslims in France, at least 5,000 mosques are needed, Boubakeur said.
During the interview with French radio he gave an example of the transition of a church into a mosque in Clermont-Ferrand, which was welcomed by the local religious community. The church had been abandoned for more than 30 years and the building was given to the Muslim community in 2012.
“It’s the same God, these are neighboring rites, fraternal, and I think that Muslims and Christians can coexist and live together,” he said.
It’s not the first time the lack of places of worship for millions of Muslims has been brought up in France. In April, Boubakeur called for doubling the number of mosques.
His remarks were welcomed by the Christian community as a “legitimate” demand.