Sufism is a mystical trend in Islam characterised by particular values, ritual practices, doctrines and institutions which began very early on in Islamic history. Several Sufi tariqas (communities) are present in France, which has a population of over 6 million Muslims. The core of Sufi practice is the dhikr, the remembrance of God, often performed after prayers. Dhikr is the remembrance of Allah through a specific devotional act, most commonly the repetition of divine names. This activity is normally practised behind closed doors, but since the rise of terrorism committed in the name of Islam some Sufis have decided to make themselves more conspicuous and publicly spread their message of peace.
Since 2011 I have been invited as a photographer to spiritual meetings among three tariqas which have large number of followers in France: the Alawiyas, the Boutchouchiyyas and the Naqshbandis. The leaders of these three communities joined in the Rassemblement Soufi de France, an association aiming to promote a culture of tolerance, dialogue and togetherness.
The leader of the Alawiyya community Sheikh Khaled Bentounes, who is very active in inter-religious dialogue, founded the Muslim Scouts of France and AISA NGO. The sheikh encourages Muslim youth to vote and participate in cultural and social activities, and his NGO is active in supporting the role of women in world peace. He has petitioned the UN to create a World Day of Living Together.