President Macron and Interior Minister Gérard Collomb joined the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) for Iftar on June 20.
Macron first thanked the CFCM’s outgoing president Anouar Kbibech for his tenure, which was marked by numerous terror attacks. “Thanks to you, the nation’s unity was upheld along with the voice of reason.”
Macron added: “We live in a time where there is much to divide us, where everything could collapse…Our challenge is, of course, security, as we are faced with raging terrorism, but it is also moral and civilizational. And with this challenge, as part of your [CFCM] responsibilities, you play an important role. The State and public authorities will be with you to face these challenges. My presence here, tonight, by your side, is meant to thank you. Faced with the immense responsibilities that await us, you will have me by your side.”
He concluded: “No one in France should believe that your faith is not compatible with the Republic, no one should think that France and the French reject the Muslim faith. No one can ask French men and women, in the name of the faith, to reject the laws of the Republic.”
While the majority of French Muslims traditionally have voted for leftist parties, at a recent UOIF conference there was talk of abstention.
The main candidates–save for Marine Le Pen–met the leaders of the French Council of the Muslim Faith before the election’s first round, and the “Muslim vote” could have additional significance in the upcoming election. Despite this, many Muslims at the conference reported feeling disappointed with Hollande’s tenure as president, and were hesitant to cast their vote in the first round.
Amar Lasfar, president of the UOIF, advised French Muslims “not to reduce a candidate to what they say about Islam,” which many took as an endorsement of François Fillon of Les Républicains. “Vote!” he urged during a speech, “Save France from the threat of the far right.”
“Abstention, it’s the wrong choice: it means nothing,” concluded Nabil Ennasri, president of the Collective of French Muslims.
One month before the first round of elections, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) sent letters to the presidential candidates on March 23 requesting interviews. According to the CFCM, contacts have already been made to “solicit a meeting.”
“We have have reached an agreement with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Benoît Hamon, Emmanuel Macron and François Fillon” stated CFCM’s president Anouar Kbibech. “As for Marine Le Pen, we must decide on the course of action to be taken. It all depends on what happens in the next few weeks.”
The themes the CFCM intends to discuss are broken into two principal categories: their “vision for secularism” and their response to “the fears and worries” of French Muslims regarding discrimination and amalgamations that are made between their religion and terrorism.
Bernard Cazeneuve recently presented Anouar Kbibech, President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), with the prestigious Legion of Honor.
“It’s impossible not to see your love for the Republic that has always guided you, in the same title as your religious convictions and your intention to ardently defend the interests and the reputation of French Muslims,” Cazeneuve said, recognizing Kbibech as “an important leader in religious dialogue and organizer of the Muslim faith in France.”
“Following the murder of Jacques Hamel, you called on Muslims to attend Mass at churches the following Sunday to bear witness to their mourning and compassion. Such an action is a gesture of determined calm, similar to the remarks made by leaders in the Catholic Church, in light of the suffering felt by the people of our country.”
“Respect is the most important Republican value, without which there would be no democracy, the Republic, or vivre-ensemble,” the Prime Minister concluded.
The French left-wing think tank Terra Nova recently published a report in which it urges a “less centralized Islam” in France, as well as additional days off for Muslim and Jewish holidays. The study, entitled “the Emancipation of French Islam,” notes the limits to the French Council of the Muslim Faith’s ability to represent the country’s Muslim population.
The study suggests two additional days off for Muslim and Jewish holidays instead of the usual the days allotted after Christian holidays. Researchers argue that this change would ensure “that all religions are treated equally.” Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha would replace the Mondays off following Easter and Pentecost Monday.
To view the full report click here.
The Grand Mosque of Paris will pull out of a new, state-sponsored Muslim foundation, criticizing “interference” in how Islam is exercised, at a time of simmering tensions surrounding France’s second-largest faith, its spokesman said.
The mosque, which represents some 250 Muslim associations, called in a statement for other Muslim groups to follow suit and “reject all attempts of stewardship” by the state.
“We’re happy to have the state create a foundation, but the president must be Muslim and it must be done in collaboration with Muslims, we don’t want it imposed,” said Slimane Nadour, the mosque’s communications director.
But Abdallah Zekri, secretary-general of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, an umbrella body, suggested the mosque was peeved that its head, Dalil Boubakeur, was not tapped as foundation president. “We need a foundation,” he said.
It’s official: the Foundation for Islam in France has been launched. The secular foundation, meant to serve as a “public utility,” is one of the pillars of the new Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve’s plan for the future of Islam in France.
The current Foundation replaces the Foundation for Islamic Works, launched by former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, which never truly functioned due to internal squabbles among the country’s Muslim federations. The new foundation received an initial donation of one million euros.
It serves to finance educational and cultural projects, including university diplomas for imams on French secularism (a project supported by 14 French universities), research in Islamic theology, and youth programs.
On December 12, during the first meeting organized by the Interior Ministry, workshops will be held during which those with relevant project ideas can present. If chosen, their project may be eligible for funding.
Anouar Kbibech, President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, stated: “This foundation is important because it will permit financing for cultural activities backed by mosques.”
French authorities shut down 20 mosques and prayer halls they found to be preaching radical Islamic ideology since December, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday.
“Fight against the #radicalization: since December 2015, twenty Muslim places of worship have been closed,” the Interior Ministry tweeted.
Of the country’s 2,500 mosques and prayer halls, approximately 120 of them have been suspected by French authorities of preaching radical Salafism, a fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam.
“There is no place … in France for those who call for and incite hatred in prayer halls or in mosques, and who don’t respect certain republican principles, notably equality between men and women,” Cazeneuve said, adding, “That is why I took the decision a few months ago to close mosques through the state of emergency, legal measures or administrative measures. About 20 mosques have been closed, and there will be others.”
The announcement came days after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for a temporary ban on foreign funding of French mosques.
Cazeneuve also announced Monday that French authorities would be working with the French Council of the Muslim Faith to launch a foundation to help finance mosques within France.
“By October, a foundation will be created to finance the cultural aspect of cultural institutions and scholarships for secular education #islam,” he tweeted.
Following the Council of State’s suspension of the anti-burkini orders in Villeneuve-Loubet, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) welcomed the ruling, calling it a “sensible decision,” and a “victory of rights, [and] wisdom.”
According to the CFCM’s Secretary General Abdallah Zekri, “This sensible decision will help defuse the situation, which was marked by high tensions among our Muslim compatriots, notably women.” He added that it was “a victory of rights, of wisdom, of promoting our country’s vivre ensemble”
The Grand Mosque of Lyon called on Muslims to be “proud of France.”
“This court decision serves as a symbolic model,” said the mosque’s rector Kamel Kabtane. “To those who argue, not without violence, that Islam has no place in France, in Europe, in the West…The Council of State has opposed them. Islam has its place in the Republic and the legal realm regarding a Muslim’s freedom of conscience, whether it be in the mosque or swimming in the ocean.”
A leader in the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Mohammed Moussaoui, hoped for a “gesture of appeasement’ from the President of the CRIF, whose comments about young Muslims and anti-Semitism have caused controversy. In a recent interview Roger Cukierman stated that all anti-Semitic violence was committed by “young Muslims,” which caused the CFCM to boycott the annual dinner. “Dialogue never ceased with the CRIF as an organization,” declared the CFCM’s President Dalil Boubakeur. “The two communities are mature enough to find common ground and to overcome any disquiet which was created by these unacceptable remarks.”
“I think it’s necessary for him to make a gesture, appeasing remarks, which would allow for dialogue,” said Mr. Moussaoui. He denounced “all extremism, no matter what type it is,” and condemned “terrorism which claims to be Islam,” deploring amalgamations between extremism and Islam.
Following the January attacks Prime Minister Valls invited Muslim representatives to take part in the fight against terror. “Taking responsibility is to ensure that there is a debate within Islam,” he stated. “It’s what we ask of the main majority of our Muslim compatriots who can no longer be confused with this terror.”