Benoît Hamon: ‘Stop framing Islam as a problem for the Republic’

Benoît Hamon, rising favorite within the Left, spoke against certain actions taken in the fight against communitarianism: “What I do not accept, is that behind this word, communitarianism, there is a willingness to say that Islam is incompatible with the Republic. It’s not true. It’s unacceptable that we continue to make the faith of millions of our fellow citizens a problem in French society,” he said following his victory in the first round.

Speaking about “a revolutionary and political Islam,” the former education minister nevertheless agreed that it was an “enemy of the Republic.” He said he would “fight for deradicalization among young people,” and would take measures to “prevent radicalization” before adding, “But stop framing Islam as a problem for the Republic.”

American Muslims in the 2016 Election and Beyond: Principles and Strategies for Greater Political Engagement

Muslims have yet to realize their full political potential through voting, organizing, and coalition building. More and more, however, a new generation of activists and community leaders is engaging the political process as full participants, motivated both by the desire to make a difference and a sense of civic duty. Ironically, Islamophobic rhetoric so common in the 2016 election cycle aimed at marginalizing Muslims may have given a fragmented community a rare common concern around which to mobilize, and a united party platform for which to cast their ballot. The mosque, a focal point of attacks, emerges as a gathering place for grassroots civic engagement, education, and community service. To realize their full potential, Muslims must build for the short term through education, local participation, and effective getout-the-vote campaigns. Muslims must plan for the long term by building a sustainable infrastructure for political mobilization, investing in more research on American Muslim voters, and cultivating an American Muslim civic culture.

Institute for Social Policy and Network: http://www.ispu.org/ame2016

Link to report PDF: http://www.ispu.org/pdfs/repository/ame2016.pdf

Dutch minister want to revive imam-education in the Netherlands

The Dutch Minister of Education Jet Bussemaker wants to revive the professional education for imams and mental caregivers in the Netherlands. The few educational programs that were present in the Netherlands closed down three years ago. At the behest of Bussemaker the vocational schools Inholland and Windesheim and VU University Amsterdam (VU) have initiated serious conversations about a possible restart of the educational programs.

The goal is once again to create an educational program that forms Islamic clerics in line with Dutch culture, just as the program at Inholland did three years ago. This program was terminated because it was too expensive and was hardly effective. Of the 105 candidate-clerics that started the program only a few graduated. Just one of them found work as an imam.

From the community the demand for a good educational program still exists, Bussemaker says. A ‘Dutch imam new style’ does not always have to be a theologian according to her. “Outside of the mosque people with knowledge of Islamic theology are also necessary. One could think of I minor or a major, of several trajectories. Then one could study pedagogy and follow an imam-trajectory within that program. Or the other way around: Islamic theology and within that program a minor in another field.”

Majority of jihadis have mental health problems

More than half of the jihadis travelling to Syria have mental health problems. Often these problems already existed before their traveling and radicalization. In 1/5 of the cases the jihadi suffers from a serious condition, such as schizophrenia.

This is the conclusion of a research on 140 documents. Thereby it is often thought that jihadi’s are intelligent people, but the research concluded that they often received low or now education, have been homeless and come from broken families.

The researcher provides no one-size-fits-all solution. It seems that every individual needs a separate one. More cooperation between police and mental health institutions is preferable.

Interview: How France could better regulate the imams who preach on its soil

Atlantico: From the time he was Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls wished for French imams to be trained in France. Would that be possible?

Haoues Seniguer: It seems to me that we must make a distinction between desirable and possible, what is feasible and impossible. Several of Manuel Valls’s predecessors have discussed training imams in France, but it’s difficult to accomplish under the constraints. Moreover, permanent structures must exist with a multidisciplinary education, notably in history and in Islamic studies available at recognized universities.

Atlantico: Does it not pose a geopolitical problem that certain foreign imams come to France concerning the question of internationalization of educating the forein imams?

Franck Frégosi: Take the example of Turkey. The Turkish state believes that where important communities are located, it can exercise its right to monitor and control religious speech. This allows them to follow the eventual political evolution, to avoid what they consider to be hostile commentary. In Turkey, the religious administration is allowed to exercise control over what officially occurs in the Turkish mosques.

Atlantico: What are the problems encountered by Muslims in the education of imams?

Frégosi: Among the most well known private institutions there is the European Institute of Social Sciences, which has a satellite campus in Paris, and the school at the Great Mosque of Paris. The number of years of study to become an imam in France depends on the structure of each private institute. In general, the training is between three and four years. From the beginning, religious institutes are mostly preoccupied with opening places of worship or mosques in France, the question of the education of imams came much slower and later, when the French government raised the issue. It seems difficult to design an educational system different from that in Islamic states who have a state religion, and who wish to form an official clergy. Concerning Muslims in foreign countries, such as Turkey and Algeria, some imams were trained in their countries in religious universities. As I explained before they are sent and sponsored by their home country.

Atlantico: The difficulty in training imams doesn’t have to do with the multiple interpretations of the Qur’an?

Frégosi: It primarily comes from the fact that there are several different Muslim populations in France: North Africans, Turks, etc. who have different cultures and therefore different interpretations. Each Islamic federation wants to maintain complete control in training its imams, and therefore it’s difficult to develop a uniform training. The problem of foreign imams living on French soil demonstrates that Islamic education in France is not adapted to those who live in France. We need a global response from Muslim countries to this education, including countries such as Morocco who fear radicalization. Morocco has established an increased politicization of Islam concerning the training of its imams. This allows them to have a more contextualized interpretation of the texts; this also allows the state to maintain control over what happens in its mosques. Because if the state finances religion, it’s normal that it would control them.

Atlantico: Should the French state finance the training of imams?

Seniguer: Retaking the reigns would mean nothing less than a revision of the 1905 law. This would not come without reviving and exacerbating distrust between everyone.

Frégosi: Legally, it’s not possible for the state to intervene in the financing of a religion, and therefore in the training of imams. On the other hand, the state could show its support in the training of imams who are in charge of civic duties and allow them to have an official status. Thus, the expenditures would be for the training only, not the remuneration of religious sectors.

Atlantico: What would be the other necessary conditions to create an Islam of France? Is that the role of an imam?

Frégosi: I have the tendency to say that an Islam of France already exists; it is in the day-to-day lives of all the Muslims of this country. But looking at it from a sociological reality, it must develop its roots in France through any educational and theological work. This allows Muslims to have their own intellectual and spiritual reference and ensures that they no long rely on just any person’s interpretation of Islam.

The imam has a role to play in this respect but most of the time he possesses a secondary role. He’s not just an employee of the mosque, it is he who runs it and who has the most influence. The imam has a role to play in the transmission of the fundamental elements [of Islam], he is an integral part of the successful integration of Islam, it’s why certain large mosques established instructional seminars to be able to educate imams about the work and to understand the practice of Islam in France.

Dutch Minister wants school to work on the prevention of radicalization

Jet Bussemaker, minister of Education, says that teachers should be more aware of their ‘social role’. School is the place where different groups from society get in contact with each other and if signs of radicalization are being seen, the school should take action. For example when a boy decides he doesn’t want to sit with girls anymore.

In the same sense the minister doesn’t agree with schools that have plans to replace the lowest levels of education (The Dutch schooling system knows roughly 3 levels of education) to a different location. Cause school is the place where different groups, low- and high educated people can meet each other. Teachers have an important task to bring these people together and to make sure appreciation for each other will occur.

French magazine attacks Muslim minister

A far-right weekly newspaper has caused considerable controversy after calling France’s new education minister a “Moroccan Muslim” and stating that the decision to appoint her is a “provocation.”

“The front page of the Minute is an incitement to hatred. It should be sued in court,” said Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, head of the Socialist Party, in a statement calling for the magazine to be sued.

The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism called the cover “shameful” and contended that those “spreading hate” need to be stopped.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the Moroccan-born education minister, is the first woman to hold the position. Soon after her appointment the magazine Minute featured her on its cover with the headline: “A Moroccan Muslim at the national education (ministry). The Najat Vallaud-Belkacem provocation.” The magazine has already come under fire in early 2014 for its comments about France’s black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, for its headlines, “Crafty as a monkey,” and “Taubira gets her banana back.”

Vellaud-Belkacem has remained calm despite the controversy. “I keep away from this type of debate which is irrelevant,” she said, “However, I do think of those who are watching this spectacle” and could feel “contaminated.”

“In their name more than my name, I would urge those on the right to take into account their responsibilities and to respect insinuations and people,” she said. Vallaud-Belkacem holds dual French and Moroccan citizenship and calls herself “a pure product of the Republic,” and an example of “happy integration.”

Following the attacks, government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said that the minister enjoyed “the support of all the government in the face of these attacks that do those who make them no honor.”

Mainstreaming Immigrant Integration Policy in France: Education, Employment, and Social Cohesion Initiatives [PDF download]

Mainstreaming Immigrant Integration Policy in France: Education, Employment, and Social Cohesion Initiatives [PDF download]

Report: Mainstreaming Immigrant Integration Policy in France

A recent comparative research project organized by the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) and the University of Oxford and Erasmus University in Rotterdam, details the complicated history and current situation of immigrant integration in France. Currently, the government’s immigration initiatives cease after an immigrant has been in France for five years. French law does not allow for statistics to be gathered concerning a person’s ethnicity or religion, and because many children of immigrants are French citizens, it is difficult to assess the efficacy of the current government initiatives.

President Francois Hollande is considering reforms to the country’s integration policies. This comprehensive report discusses immigration trends, and the youth as a key population in integration policies, as well as educational, employment and social cohesion policies.

School heads warn of Trojan Horse overreaction

August 12, 2014

Anti-extremism measures for schools in the wake of the Trojan Horse inquiries are rushed and could have unintended consequences, head teachers warn. They claim proposed regulations could inhibit “free discussion” and are calling for a longer time for consultation. The rules apply to England’s academies, independent and free schools. A Department for Education spokeswoman said they promoted “tolerance and respect of all faiths and cultures”.

These updated regulations, intended to reduce the threat of extremism and intolerance, include calls for schools to promote “British values”, such as “mutual respect and tolerance”. But head teachers have also raised concerns about the proposed requirements.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education rejected the concerns. “The Independent School Standards are designed to ensure every school prepares children for life in modern Britain. We make no apology for demanding high standards and the promotion of tolerance and respect of all faiths and cultures. It is simply untrue to say that the proposed changes – which received 1400 responses and last six weeks – would prevent teachers using gender-specific terms or require schools to downgrade Christian festivals.”