Since Islam has become the second largest religion in France, the State required an interlocutor representing the different Islamic communities present on its territory. This brought to the 1989 initiative of Minister Pierre Joxe, then Minister of Internal Affaires and Faith, promoting the birth of a Muslim Council to dialogue with the State.
Ten years later, in 1999, Minister Chevenement prepared an inventory of all organizations responsible for the Islamic faith and invited them to dialogue with the Ministry to define the form the Council should have. Four main organizations were singled out:
1. The mosque of Paris and its network of Imams nominated by the Algerian government;
2. The Union of Islamic Organizations in France, well structured and whose influence stretches beyond the network of mosques officially affiliated to it;
3. The National Federation of French Muslims, which has become mainly a Moroccan reality;
4. The Tabligh movement, quite doubtful at the beginning, concerned with preserving its pietist nature, participating, but as little as possible.
Two other Muslim populations later joined the Council: the Turks, whose organizations have historically always been very active in the organization of the faith, and the sub-Saharan Africans, with the Federation of the Islamic Associations of Africa, the Antilles and the Comore.
After having identified the main organizations, the Ministry selected six greater mosques: the mosque of Evry, the mosque of Mantes-la-Jolie; the grand mosque of Lyon; the grand mosque of Southern France, in Marseille; the grand mosque of Saint Denis, which has still not been built and the Addavva mosque in Paris.
Finally the Ministry elected six representative figures.
The début of the Council was difficult. Since 1999, 63 Commissions have worked at the drafting of its Statutes. There are many problems related to the requests each organization made to have its own representatives. In 2002, under constant pressure of the Ministry of Internal Affaires, the Statute of the Commission finally came to life, describing how election of the representatives to the French Council of Muslim Faith would take place. The first elections took place on April 6th and 13th, 2003. The first meeting of the Board of Directors of the CFCM was on May 3rd. The CFCM started its activity and the Muslims finally had their own representatives at the table of the Republic.
CFCM’s greatest challenge is to operate and create the conditions necessary for a Muslim theology to rise enabling Islam’s harmonious integration within the secular republican State. At the same time, the CFCM must take into account the demands of its electorate. This is not easy with lay Muslims, for instance, who do not recognise its legitimacy.