French Muslim intellectuals critique current organization of Islam in France

“Following the killings of cartoonists, after the murders of young people listening to music, after the assassination of a police couple, after the murders of children, women, and men assisting at the celebration of the fete nationale, and today the murder of a priest conducting mass…There is horror, still more horror and a clear commitment to pit Frenchmen against one another. To destroy the national harmony which still stands. We Muslims were silent because we learned that in France religion is a private affair. We must now speak out because Islam has become a public affair and the current situation can no longer be tolerated.

As Muslims, of faith or culture, we are concerned by the powerlessness of the current Muslim organization of France, which has no control over events. Despite the efforts of those engaged, French Islam is badly managed by the representatives of countries where many French Muslims originate. This organization likely made sense when Muslims were immigrants. Today, the Muslims of France are 75% French. The majority is young, very young. Many among them are the prey not only of ideologues of radical Islam but also of political Islam. The traditional representatives no longer understand simply because they no longer know them.

So, it is necessary to change generations, with a clearly organized project: provide sustainable sources of financing and ensure transparent and open mosques, train and employ imams, engage in historical, anthropological, and theological endeavors which allow and will allow more people to be French and Muslim in the secular Republic. And finally, to lead the cultural battle against radical Islamism which concerns younger and younger youths, with the most modern means and techniques drawing on the most effective ideas and information. We must act as Muslims.

But also as Frenchmen. We must respond to French society’s questions, which ask us: ‘But who are you? What are you doing?’

Certainly this question is paradoxical: we have learned to make religion a private affair. Then why speak as Muslims? Because the risk of fracture becomes more pressing every day. So, before it is too late, before violence pits one against the other—this is Daech’s objective—we must act and assume responsibility. And we must move beyond the paradox: ‘Rid yourselves of difference; condemn because you are different.’ Through hard work and self-denial but also because the Republic has done its work, we have, as other citizens have as well, taken our place in French society. And today, this generation is ready to assume its responsibilities, notably the organization of French Islam.

A Foundation for French Islam was created more than ten years ago. It never functioned. It is time to reactivate it, to give it the ability to collect resources. The French of Muslim faith are ready to re-launch it, to give it life, to contribute to its financing. This foundation, at the national level as well as the regional level, could be the institution that will allow for the organization of French Islam. Beyond that, it is a pursuit of perspective, of social and cultural action, which we are ready to harness.

As Frenchmen, as well as Muslims. Because France needs it.”

The signatories: Kaci Ait Yala, chef d’entreprise ; Najoua El Atfani, cadre entreprise BTP, administratice club XXIe siècle ; Rahmene Azzouzi, chef du service urologie, CHU d’Angers ; Linda Belaidi, dirigeante EASI (European Agency for Strategic Intelligence) ; Tayeb Belmihoub, auteur, comédien ; Sadek Beloucif, chef du service anesthésie réanimation, hôpital Avicenne, ex-membre du Comité national d’éthique ; Amine Benyamina, professeur de psychiatrie et d’addictologie ; Nadia Bey, journaliste ; Abdennour Bidar, philosophe, inspecteur général de l’éducation nationale ; Antar Boudiaf ; Hamou Bouakkaz, conseiller d’arrondissement, ancien adjoint au maire de Paris ; Marc Chebsun, auteur, éditorialiste ; Abdelnor Chehlaoui, banquier d’affaires ; Fatiha Gas, directrice d’un établissement d’enseignement supérieur ; Mohamed Ghannem, chef du service cardiologie, Fondation Léopold-Bellan ; M’jid El Guerrab, ancien conseiller du président du Sénat ; Kamel Haddar, entrepreneur (éducation et média) ; Abderrahim Hafidi, universitaire, islamologue ; Sofiène Haj Taieb, DG Finances, fonds d’investissement ; Khalid Hamdani, chef d’entreprise, membre du Cese ; Majid Si Hocine, médecin ; Mehdi Houas, président Talan (conseil informatique), ancien ministre ; Elyès Jouini, professeur d’université, vice-président d’université, ancien ministre ; Hakim El Karoui, ancien conseiller du Premier ministre, chef d’entreprise ; Bariza Khiari, sénatrice de Paris ; Saadallah Khiari, cinéaste, auteur ; Shiraz Latiri, cadre, société d’assurance ; Kamel Maouche, avocat au barreau de Paris ; Kaouthar Mehrez, ingénieur ; Malika Menner, directeur des Relations externes d’un grand groupe télécom ; Louisa Mezreb, PDG Facem management ; Naima M’Faddel, adjointe au maire de Dreux, chargée de l’action sociale ; Pap’Amadou Ngom, PDG Des systèmes et des hommes ; Bouchra Rejani, directrice générale d’une société de production audiovisuelle ; Mahamadou Lamine Sagna, sociologue, chercheur à Paris-VII ; Nadir Saïfi, juriste ; Yasmine Seghirate, responsable de la communication pour une organisation internationale ; Mohsen Souissi, ingénieur ; François-Aïssa Touazi, fondateur CAPmena, ancien conseiller du ministère des Affaires étrangères ; Farid Yaker, président forum France Algérie ; Faiez Zannad, professeur de thérapeutique-­cardiologie, CHU Nancy, université de Lorraine.

Valls explains ‘pact’ he wants to build with Islam in France

Prime Minister Manuel Valls advocated the construction of a pact with the Islam of France aimed to join forces to combat the phenomenon of radicalization. In an interview with the weekly Journal de Dimanche, Valls estimated that “Islam has found its place within the Republic”, but with the rise of extremism we have the urgency to “build a true covenant.”

Referring to radicalization, he said that “this infernal mechanical pushes individuals, sometimes very young- men, women, Muslim or converted recently- to take up weapons and use them against their countries.”

The French authorities have been concerned for months about the increasing level of radicalization in a part of the population, especially the youths, a phenomenon that is evident in the increasing travels to the Middle East to join terrorist groups like IS.

However, other analysts draw attention to the socio-economic conditions leading to radicalization, since there is a large group of socially marginalized youths in France and Europe.

Nathalie Goulet discusses foreign financing and recent Senate report (pdf)

Following the recent attacks on French soil several politicians have proposed measures to reform Islam’s structure and the financing of Islam in France. For Nathalie Goulet, UDI senator from Orne who recently published a report on foreign financing, the priority should be to end the practice of ‘supplied’ imams and to establish a foundation to centralize Islam’s financing in France.

Le Monde: Foreign countries are often criticized for their influence on Islam in France. Is it true?

Nathalie Goulet: The influence of certain countries came as a great surprise to many when our report was published. But it’s not always those that we think that have the greatest presence. The Gulf countries are much less influential than the ‘countries of origin,’ Algeria, Morocco, and Turkey. These three states exercise a real influence by financing the construction of buildings and schools, imam training, and supplying imams for France’s mosques—who are paid by their countries of origin—and through the governance of the French Council of the Muslim Faith.

Le Monde: Manuel Valls said he was in favor of a temporary suspension of financing from foreign countries. Do you agree?

Goulet: The Prime Minister speaks of suspending foreign financing, but who will be their replacements? While one could hope that there would be no more foreign financing, it would be a mistake to think that the problem could be solved just like that. The question of foreign financing is ancillary. The Louvre or the Arab World Institute also receive foreign funding, in a transparent manner. Before anything, we must work to end the practice of ‘supplied’ imams who are trained in Morocco.

Le Monde: According to the report there are 301 imams sent from other countries for around 2,500 places of worship. Where is the problem?

There are 301 opportunities, for French citizens of Muslim faith, to assist with sermons led by imams who are not French and from foreign countries. It’s more problematic than foreign funding of mosques. Imams sent from Turkey, for example, arrive under the title of “social workers” and not as imams. They barely speak French, have never seen an Armenian in their life, and don’t know that in France we recognize the Armenian Genocide. The majority of supplied imams have never received an education on the Holocaust, the death penalty, homophobia…they don’t know these important contextual references, but they play a role in communities.

Le Monde: Why is the question of financing critical?

Goulet: We consider Islam to be a religion like any other, but we don’t provide it with the means to be. Islam is a recent religion in our territory. There is a need for catch-up compared to other religions. The Muslim communities need structure, schools, mosques, and associations. Muslims need to be able to practice their religion decently.

Today, if a 14 year-old girl wants to wear the veil, she is going to find an Islamic school, but there are few. A Jewish child who wants to keep Kosher and wear a kippa will find a Jewish school. The tensions are more pronounced in Muslim communities because they don’t have all the tools to practice their religion.

Le Monde: What are the paths for financing Islam in France? What do you think about the idea of re-launching a ‘foundation of French Islam’ discussed by Manuel Valls?

Goulet: We must revive the Foundation for Islamic Works to monitor foreign funds. This foundation must have a joint government with a representative from the State Council and an accountant from the Treasury. We must also implement cost accounting so that Algerian money is used for Algerian places of worship, money from Morocco is used for Moroccan places of worship…it’s necessary if we want the communities to agree to this foundation. Algerians don’t want to pay for Turks, and vice versa, even if the idea of an Algerian place of worship makes no sense in France.

Le Monde: Julien Dray, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Francois Bayrou support instituting a “halal tax” to finance Islam in France.

Goulet: Legally, it’s impossible to institute a tax on a religious item…and technically, a ‘halal tax’ would also be impossible to institute in practice, because there is no consensus on the notion of halal.

What could be possible is that religious representatives themselves institute a private fee for services relating to slaughter, which would be set by the community, collected, and sent to the Foundation.

Le Monde: Aside from financing, is there a representation problem?

Goulet: Establishing the CFCM was necessary, there needs to be an interlocutor with the State. But throughout the years, this body has never succeeded in being representative. If I was president of the CFCM, I would open up a debate, I would establish constituent assembly to review the statutes, I would call on youths and members of associations, who may feel excluded, I would institute the principle of one man, one woman, one vote…But that must come from Muslims themselves. Maybe one day, young Muslims will launch an online petition and create a concurrent association.

 

 

 

 

Senators critique an ‘Islam of France’ under foreign influence

The Senate report is concerned with France’s dependence on Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, and Tunisia for certain religious affairs. It lists the domains where their influence remains strong: financing mosques, providing and sending imams overseas to France, and determining the structure of the Islamic federations. However, according to the figures provided in the report, the funds from foreign countries are less than we might think: six  million each year from Morocco and no more than 4 million from Saudi Arabia.

The report argues that the resources exist in France, notably from donations from worshippers. “An imam confirmed…that zakat received during Ramadan increased more than 1 million,” said senator Nathalie Goulet. The report is not opposed to foreign funding but rather hopes to increase transparency. To do that the senators hope to relaunch the Foundation for Islam in France, created in the mid 2000s but never truly inaugurated. It would collect and redistribute funds.

July 6, 2016

Source: http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2016/07/06/01016-201607-en-france-un-rapport-denonce-l-ambiguite-de-l-etat.php

 

 

Sarkozy wants an “Islam of France” and supports “assimilation more than integration.” [Video]

“To equate all Muslim with jihadists, it’s an enormous injustice, to equate all religions with problems of fundamentalism, it’s an enormous injustice,” declared former president Nicolas Sarkozy on Europe 1. “We must therefore create the conditions that allow for an Islam of France…an Islam that would have societal practices that are compatible with what we want,” he stated. “Those who join us must adapt our way of life and our culture and not impose theirs on us, for me, that’s called assimilation more than integration.”

Sarkozy had previously discussed the issue on February 7 during a speech to his party’s national council, when he announced that the UMP should organize “a work day dedicated to the question of Islam in France or Islam of France.”

While speaking on Europe 1 he affirmed: “We don’t want veiled women, not for religious reasons, not for reasons concerning an interpretation of Islam,” but “simply” because “in the Republic, women and men are equal.”

In 2010 Sarkozy enacted a law prohibiting any covering of the face in a public space, which therefore restricted women from wearing the niqab and burqa. Violators are subject to a 150-euro fine and/or citizenship training. The European Court of Human Rights upheld the law in 2014, after it was challenged by a French woman of Pakistani origin.

“Secularism was built on our country’s hardship and there are a certain amount of societal practices that we don’t want,” he stated, citing the veil and prayers in the streets.

The FN vote is “no longer one of protest but of adhesion”

May 26, 2014

Marine Cécile Naves, political scientist and director of Think Tank Different, discussed the Front national’s recent victories and how the media’s fascination with Islam may have bolstered the FN’s credibility. While the percentage of voter abstention was relatively consistent with that of the previous European Parliament elections in 2009, the FN’s success rose from 6% to 25%. Naves argues that it is therefore incorrect to argue that voter abstention is the reason for the FN’s victory. She believes that a vote for the FN “is no longer one of protest but of adhesion to values. More and more voters want the FN to be in power, which was not the case in the 1980s and 90s.”

The FN’s strategies were implemented by Marine Le Pen, whose goal is to continue to gain political power in France. This approach was seen in the 2014 municipal elections, where her goal was to gain power town by town. Such a strategy is in direct contrast to that of her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who did not seek overwhelming political victories.

Naves explains that one reason for the FN’s appeal may be that the party represents a rejection of political elites who are disconnected from the public. She contends that “an identity crisis is apparent in all of Western Europe, but also in the United States and elsewhere, concerning the opening of borders, cultural exchanges with other religions such as Islam, and the manner in which the media presents Islam…There is a fear of modernity, of a society that is more and more open. There is an idea of reversed colonization.”

Islam certainly played a part in Le Pen’s discourse. She has openly voiced discontent with France’s current immigration policies and Muslims’ presence in France. Many Muslims are worried about what the FN’s victory might mean for them. However, before the victory’s implications become apparent, Naves discusses how the French media’s fascination with Islam may have contributed to the FN’s success.

When asked if the mediatization of Islam in France favors FN ideology, Naves replied, “The manner in which Islam is treated by most media is Manichean. There is a lot of attention given to those who are openly anti-Islam and who have a harsh discourse concerning Islam.” Naves argues that in France it is difficult to speak calmly of Islam. Those who do are often confined to spheres that the media ignores, such as the research world. She contends that there is a “dramatization of Islam in France so that the problems related to Islam, such as the veil or halal meat in cafeterias, are relatively minor. Yet they are exaggerated because it attracts an audience.”

Three French Opinion Pieces

April 17, 2014

 

Fighting for French Islam: Integration to Islamophobia?

By Farah Mendjour on April 10, 2014

Source: http://www.the-platform.org.uk/2014/04/10/fighting-for-french-islam-integration-to-islamophobia/

 

France, Islam and the ‘Spreading Hatred’: The EU has no extensions for the clash of civilizations that threatens European society

By John Vinocur on April 14, 2014

Source: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303663604579501091034167048?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303663604579501091034167048.html

 

Viral French film on sexism accused of ‘Islamophobia’

By Nabila Pathan on April 13, 2014

Source:

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/life-style/entertainment/2014/04/13/Viral-French-film-on-sexism-accused-of-Islamophobia-.html

Qatar attempts to manage Islam in France

26.4.2013

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’.

Most French view Islam negatively

16.04.2013

Nearly three French out of four (73%) hold negative views on Islam, a recent survey reveals. The study, commissioned by the research agency Tilder and the Institut Montaigne for the French private broadcaster LCP, was revealed during a TV show called ‘Place aux idées’ (Space for ideas). Contrary to the dominant negative perceptions upon Islam, the majority of French hold favourable views towards Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism. Only 26% shared favourable views about Islam.

Whilst 52% of participants consider Islam to be a religion like any other, 40% think that the presence of Islam in France can be an enriching experience for French culture.  Accordingly, 77% judge the Islamic pilgrimage Hajj to be compatible with life in French society. 55% furthermore consider the consumption of halal food, the celebration of Eid-Al-Kebir (51%), the fasting during Ramadan (47%) and the upholding of five prayers a day (36%) perfectly compatible with a sound life within French society. Only 10% consider the Islamic veil, hijab, to be acceptable to be worn in public spaces. Additionally, merely 36% consider Islamic practices to be compatible with French law. Similarly, only 33% state to have deeper knowledge about Islam.

The survey follows a number of recent studies conducted on French societal attitudes towards Muslim communities and Islam in France. The consensus achieved by these numerous studies can be summarized to express a striking and rising amount of prejudice, fear, suspicion and xenophobia directed towards Muslim communities in France.

Number of converts to Islam rises in France

03.01.2013

The New York Times

The New York Times reports of a rise in conversions to Islam in France. According to the paper, a virtual doubling of conversions took place within the last 25 years in the country. Of the estimated six million Muslims in France about 100,000 – 200,000 are thought to be converts. It is said to pose a challenge to both state and society’s relation to Muslim faith and community, specifically in respect to national and international anti-terrorism policies

Converts are named critical elements for the rise of terrorism in Europe by being prone to be more invisible, mobile and in need to overcompensate their novelty to faith. The article names prisons to be fertile grounds for conversions where according to reports 1/3 of the inmate population in France are Muslim. Gordard, who is responsible for religious affairs in the Office of the Secretary of State and a former intelligence office, identifies the forms of conversions to have come under change.  As such, conversions today often take place as means of “reverse integration” that aid to socially integrate  non-Muslims into predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods in the metropolitan suburbs. The population most susceptible to conversions are men beyond the age of 40 who were born in former French colonies or overseas territories.

According to scholars and converts themselves, “Islam has come to represent not only a sort of social norm but also a refuge, an alternative to the ambient misery”.