France’s Bourget Feels Gaza Pain

By Hadi Yahmid – Paris

The pains of the Palestinian people in the besieged, war-ravaged coastal enclave of Gaza Strip is felt thousands of miles away in the Le Bourget, the biggest Muslim convention in France and Europe.

"We are trying to offer our modest contribution," Galoul Ghazali, a student, told

Ghazali and a group of his colleagues are selling t-shirts inscribed with 1330, the approximate number of Palestinians killed in the recent Israeli war on Gaza, on the sidelines of the Le Bourget.

"We have started our project soon after the end of the Gaza onslaught," he explained.

"All the revenues will go to rebuilding the Islamic University in Gaza which was destroyed by Israel."

More than 6,600 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed and injured in 22 days of air, land and sea Israeli attacks.

The onslaught, which inflicted heavy damage on the infrastructure of the densely-populated enclave, left some 20,000 homes and thousands other buildings in ruins.

"Our message is that martyrs will never be forgotten," said Ghazali.

The "1330" project is only one of many similar initiatives to raise funds for ravaged Gaza during the four-day Le Bourget.

Other activist groups are selling shirts printed with Palestinian symbols, including the "Sadaka" association which printed Palestine map on shirts on sale in the conference exhibition.

Some are using posters showing scenes of the massive destruction inflicted by the Israeli aggression, while others circulate informative handouts about the Gaza population’s urgent need for help.

Le Bourget, organized by the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF), the biggest Muslim body in France, is considered the biggest Muslim convention in Europe.

It has become a fixture in the French calendar, a chance for Muslims to meet, listen to intellectuals and scholars, and buy the latest in Islamic literature and clothes.

Mosques Too

The fund-raising activities are not limited to Gaza, but also extends to building mosques to cater for the spiritual needs of France’s six to seven million Muslims.

Many of the fund-raising methods applied this year are quite new and creative, including children poems.

"These are poems we wrote. We sell them for only two euros to help build a mosque," Yassin Ghintasi, a Parisian kid, tells visitors to the Le Bourget.

The poems, penned by Yassin and his sister Jasmine, are among other children’s writings gathered in one booklet sold in the convention.

Some use maquettes of the mosque they aspire to build to encourage people to donate.

Others sport t-shirts with the name of their would-be mosques and roam the conference venue to raise funds.

The conference, which takes place every year in the northeastern Paris suburb of Le Bourget, has long been the best destination to raise funds to build mosques.

Some 200,000 people, from France and other European countries, are expected to participate in the activities of the four-day gathering.
– Hadi Yahmid is a correspondent for (Published in

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