A Muslim party that aims to promote Islamic finance and overturn France’s ban on wearing the veil in schools will take part in regional elections next month.
Led by Najib Azergui, the Democratic Union of French Muslims (UDMF) also aims to promote the use of Arabic in schools and “fight against dangerous stigmatisation that equates Islam with terrorism.”
The party, which has 900 members and 8,000 supporters, is to put up two candidates in the March election in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, where a large proportion of the population is from an immigrant background.
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It will also put up candidates in seven other regional elections next month.
“In the dramatic context like the one we are living through on Thursday, we need to make our voices heard louder,” said Khalid Majid, 36, one of the candidates in Bobigny.
France has struggled to integrate its Muslim community, Europe’s largest estimated at between 3.5 and five million, although figures are difficult to come by as secular France does not collate religious data.
The deadly jihadist attacks in Paris last month sparked immediate concern among Muslims that Islam would be blamed for the shootings that left 17 people dead.
Azergui founded the party in 2012 due to concerns over a growing tendency in France to portray Islam and the Islamic culture as “harmful, hostile and dangerous.”
“In the media debate sparked by some intellectuals and political leaders, it is clearly insinuated that Islam is not compatible with democracy,” the UDMF party says on its website.
“But living together, morality, deep respect for other communities, the importance of family, the elderly, solidarity, mutual aid, charity and fighting injustice are precisely the values that drive us.”
A previous Muslim party was created in 1997 in Strasbourg. Its president, Mohamed Latreche, won 0.92 of the vote in legislative elections in 2007.