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21.04.2019 Europe

Muslims of France reflect on their future, as annual event gets underway

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
APR 21, 2019 EUROPE

Nearly 200,000 people are expected to visit the Bourget this weekend, where the annual Gathering of France's Muslims is taking place. The 36th edition, organised by 'Rencontre Annuelle des Musulmans de France' (RAMF) carries the slogan "Muslims: their future is in the making".

It's the biggest event of its kind in France, and in Europe. Each year it aims to better reflect contemporary society. That means bringing together men and women of different ages and nationalities, with different political and religious leanings.

“The future of Muslims in this country must be thought out carefully and built upon a solid base of living in harmony and the values of fraternity and solidarity,” RAMF says.

They are hoping the debate will be put back on the agenda at a national level.

French President Emmanuel Macron said at the start of his mandate that the government would look at how Islam fits into French culture and way of life.

In 2003, the Interior Ministry under former President François Hollande, created an association to represent Muslims in their dealings with the state. But many felt that the lack of consultation within the Muslim community undermined its authenticity.

This year, a ceremony was held on Saturday dedicated to the victims of terror attacks in particular in New Zealand and Canada.

Tourism, Donation, Clothing
Among the stands dedicated to learning Arabic, or getting financial help or donating to different causes, there are activities aimed at keeping the children happy while their parents look around.

Women visitors can find out about gym classes, buy clothes or discover a range of Victoria's Secret lingerie.

There are several stands for tourism agencies, some dedicated to organizing the Hadj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

There is even a stand dedicated to ecology.
Last year, one of the stands caused a bit of an uproar. It was called "Free Tariq Ramadan", referring to the Muslim scholar accused of sexually assaulting several women. He launched a court case in February to clear his name.