In France, Islam and secularism spread as Christianity lapses

Chicago Tribune Tom Hundley June 19, 2006

PARIS – Al Fath Mosque is in a scruffy immigrant neighborhood not far from the neon-lit kitsch of Pigalle. On Friday afternoons the mosque is jammed, and the overflow of worshippers – all men – spills into the streets.

Tourists who stumble on the scene reflexively reach for their cameras, stru”\ÃwXZÝ ck by this unusual public manifestation of religiosity in a country where Christian belief has become passe.

In France and in almost every other European country, Christianity appears to be in a free fall. Although up to 88 percent of the French identify themselves as Roman Catholic, only about 5 percent go to church on most Sundays; 60 percent say they “never” or “practically never” go.

But Islam is a thriving force. The 12 million to 15 million Muslims who live in Europe make up less than 5 percent of the total population, but the vitality of their faith has led some experts to predict that Islam will become the continent’s dominant faith.

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