Nicolas Sarkozy, Former French President, Protests Proposal To Use Empty Churches As Mosques

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has signed a petition against a proposal to turn France's empty churches to mosques.

The proposal has drawn strong opposition in France. Polls indicate that more than two-thirds of the country is against it. Nicolas Sarkozy was one of thousands who have signed a petition entitled, "Do not touch my church."

According to Valeurs Actuelles, other noted French dignitaries and celebrities who have followed Nicolas Sarkozy's stand against turning France's empty churches into mosques include essayist Eric Zemmour, philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, and former junior minister for youth and community life, Jeannette Bougrab.

The idea to repurpose unused churches and turn them into mosques comes from Dalil Boubakeur, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, who made the proposal in an interview last month with Europe 1.

"This is a delicate issue, but why not."
In a survey conducted by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP), more than 67 percent of French citizens are opposed to the idea. Jerome Fourquet, IFOP's director of opinion and strategy, said the decline in Catholicism in the country does not indicate a decline in sentimentality towards tradition and the past.
"Even if France is deeply de-Christianised since the 1960s, there is a real commitment … to the Christian roots and their symbols."
With only 6 percent of respondents in a recent poll indicating they attended mass weekly, the church is definitely on the decline, with many churches closing altogether. By comparison, 35 percent of respondents in a similar poll conducted in 1962 said they attended church weekly. The poll also revealed that less than a quarter of those polled said they never go to church in 1962, compared with 46 percent in the more recent survey.

The former head of state, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, and Edouard Balladur, a former prime minister, also responded like Nicolas Sarkozy to Boubakeur's proposal in the magazine's appeal to "preserve these sentinels of the French soul."

Giscard d'Estaing said the churches are historical and must remain so.

"The French Catholic churches are part of the historical heritage of the French population for ten centuries."
Balladur stressed the need to save "the traditions that are largely the image and culture of our nation."

Nicolas Sarkozy has toughened his stance on Islam in France as he prepares to lead his party to the 2017 presidential race by calling for the ban on Islamic headscarves currently instigated in public schools to be extended to universities. He is also calling for the end to halal meals in schools.

[Image by Guillaume Paumier]