Legislative elections: The Collective Against Islamophobia(CCIF )founder candidate in Sarcelles

 

Samy Debah, who founded the Collective Against Islamophobia in France in 2004, quietly left the organization in March. “I have never been loyal to a single political party. Since I’ve become an official candidate, activists from leftist parties have approached me but I declined.” His candidacy is expected to prompt debate, since the association has documented Islamophobic attacks within the last several years from the right and extreme right, but also by Manuel Valls when he was prime minister.

Debah hopes to mobilize voters in the 8th district of Val d’Oise, which has seen high voter abstention rates. In the 2012 legislative elections abstention rates reached 57.38%. He has openly rejected any forms of communitarianism, stating, “I am Muslim and French and I see it often.” His candidacy is a test, as voters are accustomed to Tariq Ramadan and Marwan Muhammad. This time, it’s Samy Debah who has emerged as a viable candidate.

 

 

Valls attacks New York Times report on burkini ban

The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has accused the New York Times of painting an “unacceptable” picture of his country with an article about discrimination against Muslim women.

The report was prompted by the debate over controversial bans on Islamic swimsuits in many French Riviera towns. Valls said such bans were part of a “fight for the freedom of women”.

The paper said it stood by the article. Some Muslims say they are being targeted unfairly over burkinis.

An increasing number of court rulings have rejected bans on the full-body swimsuit, including in Nice, where an attack on 14 July killed 84 people during Bastille Day celebrations.

Some of the women quoted by the NYT said the clothing was a chance for them to take part in activities, such as going to the beach, in line with their religious beliefs.

Many also complained of an alleged discrimination by non-Muslims exacerbated by the recent attacks in France and Belgium, and of restrictions in wearing the headscarf, banned in French public buildings.

One said: “French Muslim women would be justified to request asylum in the United States… given how many persecutions we are subjected to.”

Another talked of being “afraid of having to wear a yellow crescent on my clothes one day, like the Star of David for Jews not so long ago”.

Manuel Valls ‘supports’ mayors who ban burkinis

In an interview with La Provence, Manuel Valls stated that he “understands” and “supports” the mayors who took steps to ban the burkini, which they judged to be “incompatible with the values of the Republic.”

“I understand the mayors, in this period of tension, who are looking for solutions to avoid disrupting public order,” he stated, insisting, “I support those who took steps, if they are motivated by a desire to encourage the vivre ensemble, without underlying political motivations.”

“The burkini is not is not a new style, a new fashion. It’s the translation of a political aim, against society, based in particular on the subservience of women.”

Muslim leaders critique burkini controversy

Amar Lasfar, President of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) and rector of the mosque in southern Lille, disapproved of the recent burkini controversy in a recent 20 Minutes interview. “For years, we have tried to attack radical Islam and terrorism, to tell Muslims that France does not target them, and this type of debate and decision has the inverse effect.”

In a letter addressed to Manuel Valls, Christian Estrosi, First Deputy of the Republicains to the mayor of Nice, wrote that “the complete covering of the face or body to go to the beach does not correspond with our ideal of social relations.”

Lasfar states that “the burkini is not part of the Muslim religion” and that he does not advocate wearing a burkini. But for religious leaders, that is not the point of the debate. “For me it’s not a question of religion, but of liberty,” says Lasfar. “But someone tell me what the difference is between a diving suit and a burkini.”

“That’s enough. It’s been blown out of proportion,” deplores Abdullah Zekri to BFMTV. The President of the Observatory Against Islamophobia stated he is “exasperated by everything I hear, Muslims, halal, the burka…”

 

Manuel Valls preaches unity to combat “Islamo-fascism”

Prime Minister Manuel Valls launched an appeal on February 16 for unity in order to combat “Islamo-fascism.” Following the deadly attacks in Copenhagen, Valls stated: “We must not give in to fear nor to division. But at the same time we must also deal with the problems: combating terrorism, mobilizing society in support of secularism, combating anti-Semitism…Islam of France must take full responsibility, this is what is demanded of the large majority of our Muslim compatriots.”

Valls felt it was necessary to conduct “a war” against Islamo-fascism,” “outside, but also inside,” of the country, to combat jihadism. He stressed that every country in the region should act, militarily and financially, including Qatar and Turkey. Monday morning the Egyptian army bombed several ISIL locations in Libya.

80 French jihadists have been killed in Syria and Iraq

Eighty “Frenchmen or French residents” who left French soil to participate in jihad in Iraq and Syria have been killed thus far, stated Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

“There are already close to 1,4000 people who have been identified, Frenchmen or residents, as having ties to these networks. Around 750 are fighting or have left to fight, 410 are in France, 260 have come back,” he stated.

On January 19 Paris prosecutor Francois Molins announced that 1,280 people “were either in transit, were on location, were coming back or had already come back to France.” On January 22, Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve stated that there had been 73 Frenchmen killed in Syria and in Iraq. “As long as we have this situation which persists in Syria, in Iraq, in the Near and Middle East, we know we will have these [jihadist] candidates.”

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.

Joué-lès-Tours, Nantes, Dijon: surge in terrorist threats

Three violent acts in three days have heightened fear surrounding terror attacks in France. There does not appear to be any connection between the three attacks. On December 20 in Joué-lès-Tours a man carrying ISIL’s flag assaulted several police officers in a police station before being apprehended. The following day, a motorist drove through pedestrians and called out “Allah Akbar” in Dijon, causing injuries. On Monday, December 22 another motorist drove through a Christmas market in Nantes, causing one death and nine injuries before critically injuring himself.

Members of government gathered on December 23 in order to discuss measures against terrorist threats. “We must mobilize all security and legal services,” declared prime minster Manuel Valls after the meeting. “We must protect the public, the French. With only a few hours until Christmas, it’s the security services’ mission and we must also protect public agents who are targets of certain terrorist acts.”

According to criminal psychologist Roland Coutanceau, the first attack can be categorized as an act of terrorism because “there is an extremist belief that we can decode in the man’s life.” However, he stated that the second attack in Dijon was committed by a mentally ill person with a history of hospitalizations in psychiatric wards and therefore cannot be definitely described as an act of terror. Coutanceau argues that in the final attack “we see that there’s a criminological logic present in what one calls mass murder but does not necessarily connote a terrorist logic. It could be, but it’s not necessarily the case.”

French state calls for a mobilization to combat the rise of Jihad

July 3, 2014

In January 2014 the French Secret Service identified more than seven hundred individuals believed to be involved in the “Franco-Syrian conflict.” In recent months, the French government, along with the European Union, has promised to take steps to curb the spread of jihad in European countries. The French state promises to “reinforce the cooperation between state services” in order to implement an intelligence network that would support the Secret Service. This information sharing would include cooperation between local housing authorities, job centers, and even middle and high schools, with the former being able to identify nascent threats. The goal is to “tighten the net” in order to reduce the number of Frenchmen leaving to fight in Syria.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke of the “hundreds and hundreds of Europeans and Frenchmen who are currently fighting in Syria. In France there are over eight hundred individuals who are involved in the conflict: because they are fighting, because they have died (more than thirty), because they have recently returned, because they want to go. We have never been confronted with such a challenge: it’s without a doubt the most pressing threat.”

Valls stated that the anti-terrorism legislation, passed at the end of 2012, would be modified at the beginning of July. Any changes to the law would be aimed at reinforcing preventative measures and the ability to monitor families whose members are potential threats. He stressed the need for legislative changes so that judges can act to further curb terrorism.

After six presumed Frenchmen were successfully stopped from returning to Syria at the beginning of June, Bernard Cazeneuve spoke of the “government’s complete determination to fight with all its strength against terrorism and the teaching of radical violence to young people.”

Valls: The Republic stands alongside Muslims

June 26, 2014

Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated, “It’s up to Muslims themselves to act, to refuse fundamentalism and radicalism, which use religion to spread hate and terror. And in this fight—and I want to acknowledge the beautiful text published by the French Council of the Muslim Faith, the Republic will always be on their side.”

His support was voiced at the exposition “Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca” presented at the Arab World Institute in Paris. Valls presented in front of several prominent Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders.

“This is a nation that recognizes the greatness and diversity of Islam,” said Valls. “This is a nation that also says that Islam has its place in France, because Islam is a religion of tolerance, of respect, a religion of light and of the future, miles away from those who twist and corrupt its message,” he stated.

The Prime Minister affirmed that “as in each year,” he would have the opportunity to meet Muslims at the meal breaking the fast during the month of Ramadan.

He promised to send Muslims “A message of confidence; a message which underscores that France is a land of freedom that respects all beliefs, and one that considers the fact that Islam is the second largest religion as an opportunity for France.”