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French Muslims join opposition to same-sex marriage

Thibault Camus / AP

Young people in Paris march against same-sex marriage during a Nov. 18 protest organized by the fundamentalist Christian group Civitas Institute. French Muslims are joining the opposition.

PARIS — French Muslims have begun joining a mostly Catholic-led movement against same-sex marriage, widening opposition to the reform that the Socialist-led government is set to write into the law by June.

Fifty Muslim activists issued an open letter on Monday urging fellow Muslims to join a major Paris protest against the law on Sunday. That followed a similar appeal last Saturday by the influential Union of French Islamic Organizations, or UOIF.

Leaders of almost all main faiths in France have spoken out against the law but not called on their followers to march in Sunday's demonstration to avoid giving the opposition campaign an overly religious tone.

Gay-marriage opponents take to streets in France

President Francois Hollande and his government clashed with the Catholic Church last weekend, telling Catholic schools not to discuss the law with their pupils and urging state education officials to report anti-gay discussions at Catholic schools.

"We will protest on January 13 by joining a pluralist campaign to preserve the traditional framework of marriage," the Muslim activists' letter said. "We invite all French Muslims to turn out in large numbers."

The UOIF statement also urged Muslims to join the "March for All", the Paris protest against the reform the government has dubbed "Marriage for All".

"This bill, if it passes, will disrupt family and social structures and civil law dangerously and irreparably," it said.

The Muslim activist letter was signed by intellectuals, business leaders and leaders of several grassroots Muslim groups. It accused the government of using the marriage issue "to mask its ineffectiveness in the fight against unemployment".

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France's 5-million-strong Muslim minority is Europe's biggest and Islam is the second largest faith after Catholicism.

The government has a comfortable majority in parliament to pass the bill. Opinion polls show almost 60 percent of the French support same-sex marriage but less that half want to let gay couples adopt children, which is part of the reform.

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