The quest for French educated imams

Liberation

07.05.2013

As so often declared by the French Government, the recent Secretary of State, Maneul Valls, wants to see more imams educated in France in mosques all over the country. He has made it one of his priority tasks to forward the cause and instructed a study conducted by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research on the subject, which is ought to be published in September.

Today, the majority of France’s ca. 1800 imams is still educated in the countries of origin of the diverse French Muslim community, despite that a large segment of France’s Muslims represents the second or third generation of immigrants. One of the greatest obstacles for the attraction of French educated imams is the lack of funding assigned to the job in the country. As most financial assets of the community are diverted to the construction of mosques and other facilities, the majority of imams need to be recruited from abroad based on lower salary expectations. France’s imams are in their majority sent from Algeria, Turkey, Morocco and other countries to teach no more than 4 years in the country while remaining to be regulated and under the control of their countries of origin.

The French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) has for long championed the cause of recruiting French educated imams, but has failed to advance the cause. The internal politics of the larger French Muslim organisations, who prefer to hold sway over who is in power of teaching and influence the Muslim community, has further made it difficult to make progress. While the Union of Muslim organisations in France (UOIF) and the Grand Mosque of Paris have set up training centres for imams, it is unclear what happened to the many French trained students of the imam centres. Most are believed to have visited the centres to learn Arabic or learn Islamic sciences, prior to unsuccessfully enrolling to greater Muslim centres of theological teaching such as Medina or Cairo