Bariza Khiari wants ‘to structure French Islam’

The national delegate for En Marche, Bariza Khiari, hopes to play a role in the transformation of French Islam. She also speaks out against the Foundation for Islam in France.

Her “last political struggle,” was Emmanuel Macron’s election, and she has big plans for her country’s future: she wants “to structure French Islam.”

“There are too many people at the head of Islam in France who are aligned with their countries of origin. That may have been useful when it was mostly immigrants, when there was the myth of return. Today, Muslims are settled in this country, and we need, like the Jewish community, completely independent affairs,” she said.

Khiari wants “young people of immigrant backgrounds, born in France,” to take the lead.

She also lashed out agains the Foundation for Islam in France.and its director Jean-Pierre Chevènement. His nomination sends the wrong signal that there were no Muslims “capable of assuming the role.”

 

Why do the French Fear Islam?

Although Marine le Pen did not win the French presidential elections, the anti islamic discourses and practices will not abate. This essay explains why, focusing in particular on the lack of symbolic integration of Islam in France.

 

https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/forum/religious-freedom-in-france-s-presidential-elections/responses/why-do-the-french-fear-islam

Report: left-wing think tank urges days off for Muslim and Jewish holidays

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.

 

 

Grand Mosque of Paris pulls out of Foundation for Islam in France

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.

 

Salafist mosque contests its closure before France’s State Council

The Yvelines prefecture has accused the Ecquevilly Mosque of calling for “discrimination and hate and violence.” The association in charge of running the mosque responded by denouncing amalgamations between salafism and jihadism. On November 2, the prefecture had called for its closing under the State of Emergency. There are no known ties to foreign networks, but the prefecture opposed the discourse of its imam, Yassine B.

On Monday, the Ecquevilly Mosque contested its closure before the State Council. The prefecture had accused the mosque of being “an influential place of worship in the salafist movement…calling for discrimination and hate and violence against women, Jews, and Christians,” adding that the imam “legitimated in a sermon,” the 2015 Paris attacks. The prefecture justified its closure by stating that “younger and younger individuals have begun to frequent salafist mosques,” which pose a security risk.

The mosque’s lawyers spoke before the State Council, stating: “We don’t see how the fight against terrorism would attempt to silence all forms of Islam in France for the sole reason that they don’t adhere to all the pillars of a Republican Islam.”

The imam denounced what he saw as a “State trap,” and contested any accusations that he had encouraged terrorism. The administrative court confirmed the mosque’s closing, as well as the prefecture’s accusations against the imam, whose statements regarding Islam and women were said to, “incite hate, discrimination, and disrespect for the laws of the Republic.”

The discourse “has already had negative effects on social cohesion in Ecquevilly for reasons of religious pressure, notably felt by women, who are ‘insufficiently’ veiled or not veiled at all. [This pressure] is in turn absorbed by children,” the magistrate stated.

The Interior Ministry representative described an “insidious message, which instilled idea in the community that, in the end, the [Paris] attacks were tolerable.”

In its retort, the association stated that the mosque adheres to quietist and apolitical salafism, rather than “revolutionary salafism,” which constitutes the “jihadist movement.” The association said it has “always condemned” terrorism and violence. It insisted that “none” of its worshipers, to its knowledge, were on the terror watch list or under house arrest.

Foundation for Islam in France officially launched

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.”

New French documentary on radical Islam sparks controversy

A new documentary on the rise of radical Islam in France has sparked controversy among the French public, with viewers’ opinions ranging from praise to outrage. The filmmaker has been slammed as ‘sensationalist’ and ‘provocateur’ by the head of the town in which part of it was filmed.

The first episode of new show “Dossier Tabou” titled “Islam in France: the failure of the Republic” was aired on Wednesday, September 28 on the M6 channel. Watched by some 2.4 million viewers, it immediately grabbed public attention, topping of Twitter discussion trends.

The documentary revolved around the financing of Islamism by foreign powers, such as Saudi Arabia, its organization and its internal divisions, as well as the training of imams. In a manner of illustration, it showed excerpts from sermons by a confirmed radical cleric named Mohamed Khattabi, who had been under house arrest for nearly three months after the attacks in France in November 2015.

A part of the documentary was filmed in the northern French city of Sevran, in the department of Seine Saint Denis. The city has been regarded as a place of widespread Islamist recruitment, after at least 15 young men left it to go and fight within the ranks of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria and Iraq since 2014. Six are known to have died there.

Bernard de La Villardiere, the French journalist, radio and television presenter who authored the documentary, could be seen getting into a heated argument with local youths outside the town’s mosque which is suspected of links to Islamism and is currently being probed by authorities. The argument ended in a brawl.

One-in-four French Muslims follow ‘hardline’ Islam

A study showing that more than a quarter of French Muslims follow hardline Islam is causing discomfort for the political class, which is united in ignoring its conclusions.

Among the survey’s findings are that 28 percent of Muslims questioned follow an “authoritarian” interpretation of texts advocating a break with French society; or that more than 40 percent of young Muslims (aged 15-25) consider Islamic Sharia law more important than the secular law of France.

“They (young French Muslims) feel rejected,” Hakim El Karoui, who co-authored the report for the Institut Montaigne think tank said. “French society is sending them the message: you are not French. In a way they are getting revenge by hanging on to the identity they have.”

The embrace of hardline Islam was strongest among young Muslims who lacked jobs or strong qualifications, added El Karoui. Overall, a plurality of French Muslims — 46 percent — considered the practice of their religion totally compatible with local rules and customs.

The study should be causing waves. It’s the first major snapshot of how French Muslims view their own beliefs to be published in France, and it comes after a wave of Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks.

And yet, public reaction to the study is partial, and strained.

Robert Ménard, a far-right mayor known for his provocative positions, tweeted a link to the report, followed by the question: “Is a confrontation [with Islam] inevitable?”

Left-wing magazine Télérama took a sarcastic stance, calling the findings “unsurprising” and criticizing the study’s methodology.

“For the time being it’s total silence from the administration,” Fanny Anor, one of the study’s co-authors, said. “What we are trying to do is create data that allows us to analyze these questions based on solid evidence, so we can avoid debating purely on impressions.”

“But that’s a very uncomfortable position for the government,” she added.

While Prime Minister Manuel Valls has repeatedly voiced alarm over the spread of “political Islam” in France, the Montaigne study shows where it’s coming from: young Muslims who lack jobs and professional skills, and feel as though the French state has turned its back on them.

To rekindle faith in the French system, the study’s authors argue, France should bring the alienated population into the workforce by overriding hiring discrimination through the use of ethnic and religious statistics.

“They [politicians] feel trapped,” added Anor. “After the terrorist attacks, it’s an awkward camp to be in, arguing for measures to fight discrimination.”

 

France’s choice of non-Muslim to lead French Islam foundation causes controversy

The appointment of French politician Jean-Pierre Chevènement to head the newly formed Foundation for Islam in France, which aims to improve relations between the state and the Muslim community, has sparked controversy in many French circles.

Chevènement, a former French interior minister, was chosen to head the Foundation for Islam in France Monday following a meeting between current Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Muslim community leaders in Paris.

Announcing the decision Monday, Cazeneuve said the aim of the discussions was to forge “an Islam anchored in the values of the French Republic”.

But the choice of Chevènement, a 77-year-old career politician whose past posts include defence as well as interior minister, was greeted with skepticism by many activists and community leaders.

“It’s a joke,” civil rights activist Yasser Louati, whose work focuses on issues of Islamophobia and national security said. “We keep treating Muslims as if they are foreign people who need to be disciplined.”

The problem with this foundation and similar ones that came before it, Louati argued, is that it was established by the government. For such an organisation to succeed, it needs a bottom-up, and not a top-down approach, he said. The community should have been asked about how they wanted the initiative to be structured and who they wanted to head it. As it stands, “it is bound to fail,” he said.

Louati was also critical about Chevènement’s appointment. “It is like me appointing Ronald Reagan to head up African-American affairs,” he said.

Ghaleb Bencheikh, an author and expert on Islam, who will sit on the organisation’s board, said that while a Muslim president for the foundation would have been “ideal”, Chevènement is an acceptable choice in the short-term, when the main aim is to get the project up and running.

Bencheikh said there is no obvious consensus option from within the community at the time being, and that Chevènement will serve a transitional role.

Chevènenement is not without credibility within the community, Bencheikh added. He was a disciple of noted French Arabist Jacques Berque, he has travelled extensively in the Arab world, he was president of the France-Algeria Association and he resigned from his position as minister of defence in protest at his nation’s involvement in the first Gulf War.

But Chevènement has already ruffled feathers by saying that Muslims should be “discreet” and try to blend in. He also said that there were 135 nationalities in a racially diverse suburb of Paris, but one has almost disappeared, referring to French nationals.

The implication that the French nationals living in Saint-Denis, many of them of North African origin, are somehow not French prompted officials in the northern Parisian suburb to write to President Hollande, asking him to renounce Chevènement’s appointment.

Bencheikh said that in the aftermath of the recent terror attacks in the country, something needed to be done. France was faced with a choice over what kind of Islam it wanted: a tolerant, open Islam or the Islam of violence and jihad. Bencheikh believes the foundation will help promote the former.

 

Hollande: France must ’embrace’ Islam

President Francois Hollande called for the creation of “an Islam of France” and the removal of foreign-trained extremist imams in a key speech Thursday on the challenges radical Islam poses to democracy.

Addressing the debate surrounding Islam following a summer of terror attacks and burkini bans, he stressed that French secularism was not at odds with the religion.
“Nothing in the idea of secularism is opposed to the practice of Islam in France, as long — and that is the vital point — as it complies with the law,” Hollande said in Paris, stressing that secularism was “not a religion of the state that stands against all other religions.”
“What we need to succeed in together is the creation of an Islam of France,” Hollande said.
He said that this could be achieved through the new Foundation for Islam in France, a measure announced in the wake of the terror attacks to improve relations between the state and the country’s large Muslim community, which accounts for between 7% and 9% of the population.
Longtime French politician Jean-Pierre Chevènement was appointed head of the foundation last month. Hollande said France also needed to create “a national association in order to obtain financing for the building of mosques and the training of imams.”
“The republic cannot accept a situation where a majority of imams are trained abroad and sometimes don’t speak our language,” he said. France’s rules of secularism prohibit the use of state funds for places of worship, and there have been concerns about the radical vision of Islam practiced in some foreign-funded mosques. At least 20 Muslim places of worship have been closed due to extremism since December, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in July.
Hollande said that radical Islam had created “a fake state, led by real killers. It skews the Islamic religion to spread its hatred.”