(France): France inaugurated its first municipal Muslim
cemetery in the city of Strasbourg on Monday, a move hailed by
Islamic leaders as a step in recognising one of the country’s
largest minority groups.
Local officials and Muslim leaders attended a ceremony in the
north-eastern French city to launch the cemetery, which has space
for about 1,000 graves.
Mohammed Moussaoui, the head of the French Council of the Muslim
Faith, hailed the cemetery’s opening as a “historic” moment for
Muslims in France and said it was “an important symbol of
belonging” for the community.
“If a religious community is to feel entirely at home in a city,
it must be helped in building places for worship and for the
burial of its believers,” Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries told AFP.
France’s 1905 law on the separation of church and state forbids
the building of municipal cemeteries restricted to only one
But the Alsace-Moselle region, which includes Strasbourg, operates
under different basic laws dating from its reversion from German
to French control after World War I.
Home to Western Europe’s biggest Muslim minority, estimated at
between five and six million, France has for years been debating
how far it is willing to go to accommodate Islam, now the
country’s second religion.
Until now, Muslims in France have buried their dead in specially
assigned areas in Christian graveyards, where there is an acute
shortage of space.
Previously, many Muslims had sent their dead to their home
countries to be buried, but the practice is declining due to the
The Alsace region, of which Strasbourg is the capital, allows the
public funding of cemeteries, unlike the rest of the country. The
city has paid about $1.05 million toward the graveyard.
The country has come under fire from Muslim groups for a series of
measures authorities say are aimed at protecting France’s secular
tradition, including a ban on wearing full-face veils such as the
Islamic niqab and the burqa.