Delegates from various mosques today elected their representatives to the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM). A further round of elections are scheduled for 19 June. Today's elections were for the 25 regional councils. These delegates will, in turn, vote for the national bodies of the institution on 19 June. These elections have been held every three years since the CFCM was established by Nicolas Sarkozyin 2003, when he was interior minister in charge of religious affairs. The CFCM is a national elected body which serves as the official interlocutor with the French state in the regulation of Muslim religious activities. Over 3,700 delegates from 700 French mosques are participating in the current elections. However, two major member groups boycotted the elections, complaining that they were more a contest between ethnic groups than an actual representation of France's Muslim faithful. These two groups, Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) and the National Federation of the Great Mosque of Paris (GMP) requested the postponement of the poll. Even these two groups reflected different ethnic interests. One is close to the Muslim Brotherhood while the other is close to the Algerian government. Critics argue that the elections amount to a struggle for influence between Algerians and Moroccans over Islam in France, the second-largest religion of the country. This appointment is "an opportunity for foreign countries - Algeria, Morocco, and Turkey - to measure their strength" lamented Fouad Allaoui, president of the UOIF. As presently conceived, this election organizes ethnic diversity in France but not the Muslim faith", added Mr. Allaoui. The main point of contention is the critera for representation, an issue which "has already been hotly contested in previous elections. At present, voting is determined based on the square footage of individual mosques. For example, a prayer hall of 100 m2 is entitled to elect one delegate, while a mosque of more than 800 m2 will be represented by 15 delegates. France's current Minister of the Interior, Claude Guéant, áppealed that even if the election process is not perfect, the CFCM remains important in France to act on issues pertaining to Islam, "particularly the question of imam training". "These imams should also be in dialogue with the French justice system and in broader French culture," added the Minister.
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