A prominent Muslim leader in France has suggested that thousands of the country's abandoned Catholic churches should be turned into mosques to accommodate the growing French Muslim population, which is the largest Muslim population in Europe.
In a Monday interview with France's Europe 1 radio, Dalil Boubakeur, the president of the French Council of Muslim Faith and rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris, explained that there are only 2,500 mosques in France, with another 300 under construction, which falls short of being able to serve the nation's estimated 5 million Muslims.
Boubakeur asserted that at least 5,000 mosques are needed in order to comfortably serve the French Muslim community and advised that converting some of the nation's emptied churches could be a viable option.
"It's a delicate issue, but why not?" Boubakeur said.
The International Business Times reports that research conducted by the French Institute of Public Opinion in 2012 found that Catholics make up 64 percent of France's population but only 4.5 percent of French Catholics regularly attend church services. In the last decade, about 60 Catholic churches have closed.
As an example, Boubakeur cited how a church in Clermont-Ferrand, which had been abandoned for over 30 years, was converted into a mosque in 2012 and the transition, he said, was welcomed by the local religious community.
In April, Boubakeur called for the doubling in the number of mosques in France. His call for Muslims to have more places of worship has also been deemed "legitimate" by French Christian leaders.
"Muslims should, like Christians and Jews, be able to practice their religion," Monseigneur Ribadeau-Dumas, a spokesman for the Bishops' Conference of France, told Europe 1 radio.
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Boubakeur's suggestion has drawn concern from France's National Front party, a far-right movement that stands strong against radical Islam.
RT reports that in April, National Front Vice President Florian Philippot stated that France does not need any more mosques because "100 percent of places of radicalization are mosques."
In the interview, Boubakeur insinuated that Muslims and Christians worship the same God and both communities should be capable of peacefully coinciding.
"It's the same God, these are neighboring rights, fraternal, and I think that Muslims and Christians can coexist and live together," Boubakeur contended.
Although Boubakeur believes that Christians and Muslims worship the "same God," Jewish author Avi Lipkin proclaimed on Monday that Allah is not the same God worshipped by the Jews and Christians.
Speaking at Skyline Church's Future Conference in San Diego, Lipkin asserted that while Jews and Christians worship the God of love and peace, Muslims worship a "war god."
"The god, Allah, is another god. The god, Allah, is not the God of the Jews and the Christians, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. The god of Allah is a moon god, war god and sword god based on the ancient traditions of Arabia," Lipkin explained. "When they say 'Allahu Akbar,' they are not saying 'God is great,' like the media says. … Allahu Akbar means 'Allah is greater;' Allah is greater than the other god, the God of Jews and the Christians, the God of love and the God of peace. Allah is the god of war and the god of hatred, the opposite."
Lipkin continued by saying that Allah should be compared to the devil, not God.
"If you are Christians, who said he was greater than God before his fall? Satan," Lipkin said. "Do you know what the Muslims call Allah? They call him in Arabic, Al-Makr. Al-Makr means Allah is the greatest of all the liars and deceivers. If you are a Christian, who is the greatest of all the liars and deceivers? Satan."
"Muslims are great people, but they are pagans because their god is another god. Our God loves every human being because we are all in His image," Lipkin continued. "But Allah wants to kill the Jews on Saturday and kill the Christians on Sunday, kill the hindus, kill the buddhists, kill the blacks in Africa, and the Muslims kill each other all in the name of Allah. How can Allah and God be the same?"