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French Muslims join opposition to same-sex marriage

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* Muslim activists, UOIF group back Catholic-led protest

* Religious leaders leave major protest to lay groups

* Opponents plan three marches meeting at Eiffel Tower

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS, Jan 7 (Reuters) - 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 Organisations (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.

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 Jan. 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".

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

FAITH LEADERS STAY AWAY

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.

Catholic bishops began demanding a public debate on the
reform last summer and were soon joined by leaders of the
Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Orthodox Christian communities.

In response, the government organised committee hearings in
parliament but kept a low public profile in the debate until a
protest march in November rallied 100,000 against the law.

While the Catholic hierarchy has not officially backed next
Sunday's protest, eight bishops plan to join the march, 25 have
encouraged Catholics to attend it and another 40 have defended
it, the Catholic daily La Croix reported.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, head of the French Church, Chief
Rabbi Gilles Bernheim and French Muslim Council head Mohammed
Moussaoui have all decided not to join the street protest.

"When I need to make something known to the government or
the president, I don't need to go demonstrate," Vingt-Trois said
last month.

The French Buddhist Union is the only main faith group that
declined to take a stand, saying Buddha never spoke about
homosexuality and suggesting a referendum to decide the issue.

The march, which supporters say could draw up to half a
million protesters, will start at three different points around
Paris and meet at the Eiffel Tower.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130108/french-muslims-join-opposition-same-sex-marriage