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
For the first time in France, the representatives of the Muslim community of the country have used astronomic calculations to determine the dates for the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. The French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) announced that this year’s Ramadan will start on July 9 and finish with the holy fest of Eid-El-Fitr on August 8. Prior to using astronomic calculations, the community organisation has used moon observations in order to determine the commencement of the holy month.
The advantages of adopting a lunar calendar based on astronomic calculations are ‘the foresight, the organisation and the planning’ of the event, says Mohammed Mouassaou, President of the CFCM. According to him, Muslim workers will now more easily be able to demand days off from their employers during the month, schools will be able to adjust their exam period according to the foreseen dates and the Muslim butchers will be able to organise their activities better.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) reports that Islamophobic attacks have risen in the first trimester of 2013. The rise accounts to 25% within the last 4 months, i.e. 50 anti-Muslim attacks registered with the French police since the beginning of the year in comparison to 40 last year. Last year alone, 201 acts against Muslims have been registered, amongst them 53 hate crimes and 148 threats against Muslims. The number of Islamophobic attacks has increased in 2012 by 28% compared to 2011, while there has already been a 34% decrease between 2011 and 2010.
The rise of Islamophobia in the country is, amongst other reasons, the result of an increasingly populist discourse in France on Muslims and Islam. The Observatory against Islamophobia, a sub-organisation that is part of the CFCM, has explicitly warned of the rise of cyber hate against Muslims. Its leader, Abdallah Zekri, has appealed a second time to French President Francais Hollande to ‘declare the fight against Islamophobia a national cause as he’s previously done for the fight against anti-Semitism’.
In a recent article, the left wing paper Liberation reports on the growing influence of the Gulf state Qatar on France’s Muslim communities. The state’s fiscal support network is named as one of the prime drivers to assert Qatari political and cultural influence on religious institutions and the larger community in France.
Prof Brahimi el-Mili (Sciences-Po Paris) considers Islam in France ‘always to have been instrumantalised’ by certain fractions. France’s Muslim community has often come under the influence of outsiders due to its ‘young, abandoned and volatile’ character. According to him, it’s unsurprising that Qatar plays a role in the community, what is however more interesting is the fact that the country ‘invests via the French Council of the Muslim Faith’.
Vitre Ma Ville
In an interview with the President of the Regional Council of the Muslim Cult in Bretagne (CRCM), Mustafa Aslan, he expresses how the recent reforms made by the national chapter of the French Council for the Muslim Cult (CFCM) are rejected by a number of local chapters. The reforms do, according to Aslan, present an unjust representation of the Muslim community in France. Accordingly, 50% of the administration of the council is appointed by the federation without reforms, which possibly negatively impacts the regional member representation and participation. Regional members will be marginalized despite holding long lasting mandates that were determined prior to the reforms voted on in the general assembly in February. The marginalization of regional representatives is accused to function in favour of those, who are closely associated with the larger urban organisations.
The reforms were past on February 23rd in the general assembly of the CFCM, which consists of a three party alliance made up between the Grand Mosque of Paris, the RMF and UOIF.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith (FCMF) has with a large majority adopted a reform which democratically regulates its leadership and core body. The organisation which was created in 2003 with the help of Nicolas Sarkozy, then French Secretary State, to represent the millions of French Muslims quickly caused disunity and tension between the largest three groups that composed the FCMF. The last FCMF election in 2011 faced, as a result, a boycott by the Union of Islamic Organisations of France and the Grand Mosque of Paris which severely limited the legitimacy of the organisation. The FCMF’s reform is a compromise between the three major conflicting parties who now share leadership. The reform helps to democratise but also neutralise the FCMF in relation to state and society.
The recent discovery of horse meat being falsely sold as beef throughout Europe has uncovered another meat scandal which particularly concerns the Muslim communities in Europe. The French Council of the Muslim faith is worried that a Dutch intermediary who was involved in the horse meat scandal has also sold false halal meat to Muslims in France.
The weekly magazine Paris Match reports that the meat salesman was convicted last year for the sale of falsely as halal classified meat between the years of 2007 and 2009, which has also been sold in France. The French Council of Muslim Faith reacted outraged and in shock about the lack of information on such a scandal amongst meat consumers and demands the authorities to publish the names of the companies which have been implicated by the scandal.
For the first time in France around 50 imams from all over the country have come together with members of Islamic associations , representatives of other religions as well as the French Secretary of State to assemble at the Shoah Memorial in Drancy.
The assembly was organized by Hassen Chalghoumi who is the founder of the Conference of French Imams (Conférence des imams de France), which remains unrecognized by the French Council of the Muslim Faith. Chalghoumi came to be known for opposing the full veil and practicing an Islam compatible with secularism. He has received fierce opposition from groups associated with the salafi mileu and has been provided police protection after being threatened with death. Chalghoumi’s involvement in the initiative has further brought up questions of legitimacy and representativity of the meeting. A point in question is also Chalghoumi’s attempt to render Drancy a fort against fundamentalism and racism.
14 January 2013
In a communiqué released by the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), the organization praises the French President’s avoidance of the term ‘islamist’ and ‘islamism’ in his recent speech, announcing French support to the Malian government’s battle against armed rebels.
The CFCM salutes the President’s precaution and brings to attention the significance of language as a tool of producing as well as fighting prejudice and abuse against Muslims. Whilst President Francois Hollande’s careful usage of language finds praise, the organization however also points out to the widespread disregard towards misleading and confusing language and vocabulary by a number of French politicians and the French media industry.
News Agencies – September 28, 2012
Confirming Islam as part of France, the country’s socialist government has vowed to do more to integrate the religious minority, warning it will not tolerate radical members in the French society. “Islam has its place in France because the Islam of France, it is a part of France,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls told representatives of the Catholic, Jewish and Protestant communities attending the official opening the mosque capable of hosting 1,500 people.
Two weeks ago, the French weekly Charlie Hebdo published cartoons displaying a man said to be the prophet as naked. Entitled “Muhammad: a star is born”, one caricature depicts a bearded figure crouching over displaying nudity. A second cartoon, in reference to the scandal over a French magazine’s decision to publish topless photos of the wife of Britain’s Prince William, showed a topless, bearded character with the caption: “Riots in Arab countries after photos of Mrs. Muhammad are published.”
The French Council of Muslim Faith accused the French magazine of fuelling anti-Muslim sentiments at a sensitive time. The minister’s comments were given in a speech marking the inauguration of the Strasbourg Grand Mosque, the biggest Islamic place of worship ever built on French soil. The new mosque is built within 2km from Strasbourg’s celebrated cathedral.