PARIS - French mosques have opened their doors on European Heritage Days on Saturday and Sunday to welcome visitors interested in the Islamic culture and architecture, joining thousands of buildings across Europe.
"People between 130 and 150 people aged 20 to 70 years" are so welcome by the weekend, Ibrahim CissÃ©, President of the Secretariat of the Union of Muslim Associations of CrÃ©teil, manager of the Sahaba Mosque, told Saphir News.
Offering them a chance to "discover the mosque", CissÃ© added that the mosque officials will try "to explain Islam and to convey a different image than the media."
The Sahaba Mosque was one of various Islamic houses of worship across France who decided to open their doors to visitors during the European Heritage Days on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th September.
During these days, the French are invited to visit the places that make the French heritage, including mosques which form a basic part of French heritage.
The event offered Muslims an opportunity to correct misconceptions about their faith, the second largest in France.
It has also given non-Muslims a chance to discover the Islamic architecture and basic beliefs, including women position in Islam.
"Issues that come up most revolve around the status of women in Islam. When exposed their texts, they are surprised to see that it has nothing to do with the ideas they have or what they can see, CissÃ© said.
Along with the Sahaba Mosque, other mosques have opened their doors for the first time during Heritage Days this year.
These mosques include places of worship recently opened such as the Assalam mosque in Nantes (Loire-Atlantique) which was inaugurated in November 2012.
Other mosques affiliated with the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) have also opened their doors to non-Muslim visitors.
They include the Great Mosque of Limoges (Haute-Vienne), the Othman Mosque Villeurbanne (RhÃ´ne) and the Great Mosque of An'Nour Quievrechain (North).
Muslim leaders have praised the event, hoping that mosque visits would offer a correct image of Islam.
"Mosques realized the utility to open on their neighbors," Commented Mr. Bouchama.
"The Islamophobic climate is not new, but now it is publicized," he adds, estimating that participation in such days with "opening on society" is the best answer to combat Islamophobia.
Fouad Douai, the manager of the civil society Great Mosque of Strasbourg, who participated in his first edition of the Heritage Days this year, agreed.
"Our policy is to pacify Islam with the whole society. This happens by welcoming and opening doors, Douai said.
The purpose of these visits is to "make Islam accessible to everyone, to reconcile Islam with the society," he added.
France is home to a Muslim minority of six millions, Europe's largest.
In October, a poll by Ifop's opinion department found that almost half of French see Muslims as a threat to their national identity.
The poll also found that most French see Islam is playing too influential role in their society.
In January, another poll by Ipsos and the Jean-Jaures Foundation found that French are growing concerned with immigrants, politicians, globalization and media, with 74 percent believe Islam is not compatible with French society.