Conseil Français du Culte Musulman (CFCM ) will interview presidential candidates on secularism and discrimination

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.

 

Macron and Le Pen debate burkini

The burkini controversy that began in summer 2016 reappeared in the televised presidential debate. As the candidates were discussing laïcité (secularism), Marine Le Pen attacked Macron, saying: “Several years ago there were no burkinis on beaches, I know you support them Mr. Macron.” He responded: “Please…Ms. Le Pen…but I don’t speak for you, I don’t need a ventriloquist. I assure you, all is well. When I have something to say, I say it.”

“So what do you have to say about the burkini?” Le Pen asked. “That has nothing to do with secularism because it’s not religious,” Macron responded, “It’s an issue of public order. So, regarding the burkini, I intend to avoid the trap set by those who want to divide society–to create a big debate…The trap in which you are in the midst of falling, by your provocations, is to divide society.”

“The burkini is a problem,” he added. “There are certain mayors, however, who issued orders that were occasionally justified because it was an issue of public order…It’s not a big theoretical problem. Don’t divide society because of it! Be pragmatic and responsible,” he concluded.

Le Pen responded, “I hear a lot of talk about freedom, I would like us to think of these young women, who, today, cannot wear what they want. The veil is imposed on them precisely because we [didn’t pay attention to] Islamist fundamentalists.”

 

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.”

‘Burkini Ban’ trojan horse for banning the veil?

Since the mayor of Cannes banned burkinis on July 28 more than thirty towns and communes in France followed suit. In certain municipalities such as Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Haute-Corse, Bouches-du-Rhône, Pas-de-Calais, and Aude, “correct dress, respectful of morality and secularism” and of “the rules of hygiene and the safety of swimming” is now mandatory.

On August 25, the Council of State will examine one of the “anti-burkini” orders, that of the Villeneuve-Loubet. The ruling will concern much more than beach attire, and affects further possible rulings against the veil in the public sphere at the initiatives of certain mayors.

Burkini or not, the orders have caused rupture and division. “What’s currently happening is a form of extending the need for neutrality or invisibility in areas and to people who were up until now not affected by the 1905 law,” said Marwan Mohammed, sociologist with the CNRS. “There has since been a lobby to extend this to universities as well as to businesses. With the recent orders, we are attacking the public sphere.”

These measures have been denounced by associations such as the CCIF and the League of Human Rights (LDH). “The danger, is that tomorrow we work to ban the veil in public or on public transportation,” said Patrice Spinosi, who defends the LDH.

Movements such as Osez le féminisme and Les Effrontées that usually denounce the veil as a tool of religious oppression, referred to the orders as “acts of humiliation,” of Muslim women. Even Femen and the writer Caroline Fourest, a secular feminist, denounced the orders, with the latter referring to them as “unacceptable.”

The government’s position seems unlikely to soften.  Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, echoed Manuel Valls by stating: “As the Prime Minister indicated, we can understand these orders.”

In a recent interview with Le Figaro Magazine Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a law that would “prohibit any religious symbols in schools and also universities, in the administration, and also in businesses.” The National Front urged a law that went as far as to prohibit “all general, visible, religious symbols in the public arena.”

French Army Asks Citizens To Enlist–But No Muslim Headscarves

After the July 14 terrorist attack in Nice, the French interior minister called on “all willing French patriots” to help defend the country by volunteering for the military’s reserves.

Two sisters, Majda and Amina Belaroui, French Muslims of Moroccan heritage, heeded the call in the aftermath of the Bastille Day attack, when a Tunisian truck driver mowed down crowds of spectators, killing 84 and wounding hundreds.

Majda, 21, and Amina, 24, are both university students who live in Nice, on the French Riviera. They pair French fashion with traditional Muslim dress, sporting wide-brimmed sun hat and headscarf ensembles.

The Monday morning following the attack, the third major terrorist rampage in the past 18 months, young men and high school boys trickled through the gates of Nice’s military recruitment center. So did Majda. Wearing a hat and headscarf, she walked past soldiers guarding the gate with weapons across their chests.

She was there to sign up for the “operational reserves,” comprising both former soldiers and civilians with no military background. She wasn’t interested in holding a gun. She just wanted to see how she could help, and set an example as a Muslim amid the growing fears over radical Islam.

“I want to show,” she said, “that I am not like that.”

The receptionist told her she must take off her hijab to enter the recruitment center.

French law prohibits people from displaying their religion in government-run buildings, including public schools, to maintain secularism in the public sphere. It’s a fundamental tenet of the country, stretching back more than a century as part of an effort to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church. But the old concept of secularism is now rubbing up against France’s new efforts to integrate its Muslim population, the largest in Europe.

France has succeeded, in many cases. In Nice, Muslims are an integral part of the landscape. They, too, were on the promenade watching fireworks along with their French compatriots on Bastille Day, the most French day of the year, when the crowd came under attack. Nearly a third of the victims of the attack were Muslims, according to a Muslim community group.

But some Muslims in France believe prohibitions against wearing religious clothing in government venues are actually targeted specifically at them, sending a message that Muslim culture is unwelcome in France.

“Although France has managed to integrate many immigrants and their descendants, those it has left on the sidelines are more embittered than their British or German peers, and many feel insulted in their Muslim or Arab identity,” sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar wrote recently in The New York Times. “Laïcité, France’s staunch version of secularism, is so inflexible it can appear to rob them of dignity.”

It poses a dilemma for people like the Belaroui sisters, who want to stay true to both flag and faith.

Minutes after entering the recruitment center, Majda walked out, unwilling to remove her hijab when asked.

“If I weren’t Muslim, I think I would be so afraid of these people,” she said, referring to Muslims. That’s precisely why she came to volunteer, hijab proudly wrapped around her head.

“For me, it’s discouraging. We want to show that we are against this violence,” she said, adding, “We are demotivated.”

Her sister, Amina, a third-year engineering student, faced the same difficult decision.

Amina had already been to the recruitment center a week prior to the Nice attack and went back again, by herself, more determined following the attack.

Both times, she agreed to take off her hijab in front of the uniformed men, though she really didn’t want to. She said it felt like undressing in public.

“I think the ends justify the means. That’s why I took it off,” Amina said in her flawless English. “I really want to commit and help people, and also try to give another image of Muslim girls, and Muslims in general.”

Anger is boiling over in Nice, which leans conservative. At the memorial ceremony for the victims, some residents argued with Muslim citizens. In the days after the attack, some in the city voiced their support for the National Front, France’s far-right political party, which has used anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Amina hopes joining the military reserves while she finishes her engineering degree can help change minds in France. Or, at the very least, it can help change the minds of French Muslim girls like her.

“Maybe it will encourage other girls to do something they didn’t think they could do before,” she said. “Maybe it will change things.”

France Must Bring Secularism and Islam Together

The killing of a priest during morning mass at a Catholic church near Rouen on July 26 has sent new shockwaves through France—a country that prides itself on its secularism, but in which religion still plays a large part in many communities.

The rapid succession of attacks on French soil claimed by Islamic State (IS), from the truck rampage in Nice on Bastille Day to the killing of 84-year-old Jacques Hamel 15 days later, is a worrying sign that IS has intensified its strategy known as the “management of savagery” and that France is a primary target in its fight against the “evil forces”.

Named after the 2004 pamphlet that influenced actions of the Iraq branch of Al Qaeda in 2005-7, “management of savagery” advocates restless violence and continuous massacres in order to scare and exhaust the enemy. It means that IS wages a psychological war as much as a military one. It entails attacking everywhere and at any time in order to destabilize populations across countries. It entails “waves operations”—that never end and maintain high levels of fear among the masses.

This view is based on a binary vision of the world where the merciless and relentless “fighters of god” aim to destroy the “forces of evil”. In this binary vision, the West is not simply a military enemy. It is the incarnation of evil because of its moral, political corruption and its promiscuous and decadent lifestyle that threatens the souls of Muslims everywhere: both those in Western democracies and in Muslim-majority countries ruled by westernized and corrupted leaders.

In this sense, the West is no longer a geopolitical concept but a word used to describe cultures, promiscuous lifestyles and atheism but also Christianity and Judaism that threaten to destroy “pure” Islam everywhere.

Defending secularism

France holds a specific status in this worldview because of its stringent version of secularism or laïcité characterized by a very limited tolerance for religious signs in public spaces. As a result, the trend is to push most Islamic practices, and especially dress code, into the private sphere. At the same time, leniency is maintained for the visibility of some catholic signs and nun’s dresses, often associated with French national culture. This is ironic, given that laïcitéwas first and foremost designed at the time of the separation of church and state in 1905 to crush the infamous power of the Catholic Church.

Discrimination against Islamic religious practices occurs everywhere in Europe, but it is somewhat different in France where there is a more systematic use of the law against Islamic practices. Since the 2004 law banning all religious signs in public schools that was intended to exclude the hijab from the classroom, this has extended to the total prohibition of the niqab(face veil) in public spaces in 2010.

In this context, laïcité is presented by politicians from right to left as the major pillar of French national identity, in need of defence against Islam. Their rhetoric suggests that the problem is not just a particular conservative or political Islamic trend, but Islam itself.

This existential war has been present since the late 1980s with the ongoing controversies on the headscarf and the rise of respected intellectuals and celebrities who have urged their followers to defend France’s universal secularist values against Islam. Most of these figures are on the left side of the political spectrum, such as the acclaimed novelist Michel Houellebecq, or feminists, like journalist and writer Caroline Fourest. Interestingly, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in France has not been part of this anti-Islamic battle, siding instead for respect of Islamic practices.

Reconciliation needed

This existential war between the core values of the West and Islam does, of course, happen elsewhere in Europe, but it is at its peak in France. French Muslims have become internal enemies of the state because they seem to endanger the core value of laïcité. French Muslims are also perceived as external enemies because of the war on terror and the rise of radical Islam. Under these conditions, any expression of Islamic identity or practice, from head covering to dietary rules, is seen as “uncivic” and therefore deemed illegitimate. No doubt that the succession of recent attacks from Nice to Rouen will exacerbate this sentiment.

All Muslims are affected, even when they are not particularly religious. As my research has shown, this has exacerbated a sense of estrangement caused by other ongoing factors including a lack of socio-economic integration or of political representation.

So it is not surprising that for some, including converts, IS provides a powerful narrative that reverts the stigma by making Islam good and the West evil. IS’s fight for the so-called caliphate is also about capturing the hearts and minds of youth in the “lands of savagery” by turning their energy and enthusiasm into lethal weapons against the “armies of evil”.

It is particularly attractive to the most fragile segments of the Muslim youth, especially young men from North African backgrounds who struggle with employment, education and gender relations. In this sense, France has become the major battlefield of inverted perceptions of Islam and the West that reinforce each other: the jihadi perception of the West as the quintessential enemy of Islam and the extreme French secular vision of Islam as the enemy of the West.

The reconciliation of Islam with French laïcité will certainly not defeat IS on the ground, but it may diminish the group’s attraction as a global ideology of resistance for young Muslims. French leaders, both political and religious, need to make sure they focus on this need for reconciliation.

Jocelyne Cesari is professor of religion and politics and director of research at the Edward Cadbury Centre at University of Birmingham.

‘RIP the Republic’: debate over postponing French Muslim students’ exams for religious holiday

Ile-de-France region’s decision to allow those celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr to postpone graduation exams has sparked controversy. Critics of the move say France is ignoring the principles of secularism.


The measure was proposed by Maison des Examens, which manages the bac in the Ile-de-France region.

This year one of Islam’s most important holidays, Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, is celebrated on July 6. This coincides with the bac exams in France.

On June 30, a directive was sent to head teachers of high schools in Paris, Versailles and Créteil to change the exam schedule for Muslim students if they request it.

Muslim students who opt to celebrate the holiday may skip the exam on Wednesday and request to take it on Thursday or Friday instead, Vincent Goudet, director of the House of Examinations in Ile-de-France, confirmed to AFP on Monday.

The move was immediately slammed by many French officials who say non-Muslim students are being discriminated against. They added that such a precedent would create problems in the French education system.

According to Philippe Tournier, the general secretary of the National Union of management staff of Education (SNPDEN), the idea is “inconceivable.”

“This kind of decision can create a … mess, especially since it contains a lot unsaid things,” he said. “And if all the students say ‘yes’ [to postponing the bac exams because of the holiday], because they prefer to have one more day to review, what will we do?”

Nicolas Cadène, general rapporteur of the Observatory of secularism, told BFMTV that “there is no need for the House of Examination to propose any adaptation, which distinguishes students according to their religious practices.”

A member of the National Assembly of France, Eric Ciotti, wrote an open letter to the national Assembly, calling on Education Minister Najat Belkacem and Prime Minister Manuel Valls to explain the decision. He said it was “unacceptable.”
Social media also blasted the move, saying that postponing exams for Muslims because of religious holidays was the end of the French republic as a secular entity.

“Of course, all France knows whether or not they have their bac and then you have Ile-de-France who has to wait,” one Twitter user wrote, while another user sarcastically added: “It’s a great secular Republic.”

“So Muslim pupils got their bac tests postponed until the end of Ramadan. RIP the Republic,” another user wrote.

Eid al-Fitr, or ‘festival of breaking of the fast’, is celebrated on the first day of the 10th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It begins when a new moon is sighted in the sky. After morning celebrations, worshipers return home and continue the festivities with their families, neighbors and friends.

Dutch terrorism-expert Peter Knoope: “A large part of the world hates us”

The Dutch antiterrorism-expert Peter Knoope searches for the motives of terrorists and warns the West. “A large part of the world hates us. What we think is progress, they find neocolonial.”

The Dutch specialist in international relations Peter Knoope warns the West: we force our way of thinking about history upon the rest of the world. And this is going terribly wrong. “We have no idea of what is developing. The anger, the dissatisfaction, the anti-Western sentiments.”

“We still think we need to democratize, and that our secular progress-thought still holds any relevance in a word were the majority of people are anti-Western. This disconcerts me,” Peter Knoope says. Until last year he was the director of the International Center for Counterterrorism (ICCT), we he is now an associate fellow. Additionally, he is a senior visiting fellow at Clingendael. the Dutch Instituut for International Relations, and travels around the world. It is utmost cynicism. I fly to Myanmar, to Mauritania, to South Africa, I’m hyper mobility itself. Someone who is stuck in Syria or Iraq is not welcome in Europe. This angers people.”

Barbaric violence

During one of those diplomatic travels he heard a remark, as a a red tread through a lot of conversations: “The majority of people here are anti-Western.” It came from a Frenchman he met in Niger. Knoope thought: the implication of what is said here, is tremendous. He repeated the sentence once more. Those words, in a random African country: “The majority of people here are anti-Western.” They stick, they hang as a sword of Damocles above our European heads. “Because it is not only like that in Niger, but also in Nigeria and also in Chad, and in Cameroon, in the of whole Sub-Saharan Africa, and also in large parts of Asia.”

Another incident. In the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria he read a pamphlet, meant for the citizens of the South-African Republic: “China is pleased that the hundred-year long humiliation of the European barbaric dominance has finally come to an end.”

Knoope: “We have no idea of what is developing. The anger, the dissatisfaction, the anti-Western sentiments. Beneath the small group of people that is mobilized by IS and that will actually take a step toward the use of barbaric violence, exists a sea of people that can understand well why those people do it.” Knoope wants to deal with the foundation of terrorism; this he finds more important that to merely battle the phenomenon.

Terrorists’ motivation

It has been long overdue that we allowed ourselves to ask the question of what the motivations of terrorists are. It was politically incorrect to ask this question in the years after 9/11,” Knoope says. Between 2001 and 2007 that question would even make you suspect. “People believed that to would demand understanding for the perpetrators.”

He sees a change in the American war-rhetoric. The big turn came in 2011. “Thas had to do with the combination of the Arabic spring and the death of Osama bin Laden. The Arabic Sping brought a sense of hope. Just as the idea that Al-Qaeda did not play a role in it, That it was not a religiously motivated but a civil uprising. With that the demise of Al-Qaeda was proclaimed. A space developed to as the question of the motivation of terrorists. The America president Barack Obama has, inspired by Hillary Clinton, further built upon this agenda. He allocated money for it and initiated programs.”

But in the meantime the bombardments on Syria continue. Knoop: “The Pentagon has an own agenda and an own dynamic that is hard to control. While we know that to depose leaders is strategically unwise. A terrorist organization is like a pyramid. If you take away the top, other more aggressive people will replace them. Take a look at Abubakar Shekau, who succeeded Mohammed Yusuf as leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria. It is strategically more wise to take away the public support, to break away the foundation. But for the military it is a difficult message that their machinery does not lead for the full hundred percent to the result they hope to reach with it.”

What binds 5 billion people? 

The worldwide character of Al-Qaeda and IS is new. “The globalization, that started with Christoffel Columbus, has intensified itself enormously the past twenty years. The global character of terrorism was never before seen, and is not comparable with other waves,” Knoope says. It is just like a water bed. You push it don’t at one side and it comes up on the other side. This much we have learned the past few years.

But to break away the foundation, how to do that? Knoope: “The first step is to try to understand why people resist. Otherwise you cannot present an alternative. The IS has a force of attraction in China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the in the Central Asian republics, until Russia, the Middle East and North and West Africa. You could go on. What is the undercurrent here? What binds those people with the shared idea that “we have something to fight against”? As long as we don’t understand that, as long as we keep throwing bombs on it and answer the phenomenon with violence, we will not solve the question.

Pretentious view on history

A better insight into what history means for the other is a good start, he believes. Because the seed of the danger is already in our pretentious view of history. “Our Western society, with her whole modernistic view on life, is afflicted with a belief in the future. The whole idea of modernization is about the manufacturability of the future: the world will become better, the world will change, our economy will grow. But for many people in this world time is something totally different. For a large part of the population of the world the world is not about tomorrow but about yesterday: want we have gone trough, what happened in the past to me, my culture, and my ancestors. Those hundreds of years of history are the baggage on everyone’s backs. The future is a fantasy.” And this is were the problem lies. “Western modernism has the inclination to deny that view of history. And this is the cause of a tremendous short circuit.”

“A group of more than five billion people rejects that idea of modernization. They say: “What you are here for to tell us, is not our future but your future.”” Because of that short circuit youths are incited to go on a search for alternatives. Knoope: “Then appears the tradition and the history and the “true” interpretation of the Islam, and then arises a group that says: “We offer an alternative, we offer you a home in which you can live that is based on the past, in our own rich history, and that offers a kind of togetherness that runs from Indonesia until Morocco. Feel at home.” And in the meanwhile our conviction that the modern society will lead to a worldwide secularity, and to a growing market and scientific knowledge, is viewed by large parts of the world as a neocolonial agenda. The modernists have never intended it that way, but if you ask the people in Africa, they say: “This is your newest way to look at us and tell us that we are not in order.” And because the parting of ways with religion is part of the modernization plans, this causes resistance and also causes for the religious component to emerge in an even stronger way.”

So does something exist such as fundamentalist secularism? For sure, Knoope says. “It’s fanatic. People who are part of ISAF (the international peace coalition in Afghanistan) tell me without shame that people in Afghanistan are 2000 years behind. I ask then: behind what? They mean behind our modern, secular, scientific view of the future, to which according to modern thought the population of the whole world shall have to submit.

Postcolonial disappointment

The problem if modernization started, according to Knoope, with the liberation theology after the postcolonial period, that started around 1960. A lot of the people in the colonies were disillusioned: the liberation had not brought what they had expected. “The postcolonial promise of improvement – we are now going to build up our own countries, we will make something beautiful – is turned over to postcolonial rage. If you ask an average youth in North Nigeria what democracy has brought, he’ll answer: “Nothing. A corrupt police officer and a life endangering army. That is our democracy. Thank you, dear Europeans.” The democracy that was installed in large parts of our former colonies did not bring the people anything. But we keep on telling them that democracy is the wonder drug.”

What concerns Knoope most is in many of those countries the traditional systems that existed had worked. “If one stole a cow, they went under the tree and spoke with each other. Conflict was dealt with amongst the people themselves. But the traditional way of conflict resolution was supplanted by a Western system of judges and lawyers. That Western system does not function over there at all. Prisons are full of people who have never seen a judge or lawyer. The old system of justice was completely destroyed and replaced by what the West implemented under the banner of democratization, human rights and “international law.” But in their daily practice people see that it has only brought misery. And then Al-Qaeda comes by, or IS or one of those groups, and they say: “Democracy? What is that for? What has it brought you?” Those groups demand a place for themselves in politics. There are of course masses of people that have huge problems with the reprehensible and brutal violence of the terror groups, but they do understand.

Is there, then, a peaceful solution? “As a first step we must realize that we cannot anymore force our modernity upon our former colonies,” Knoope says. “We must muster the humility that modernity is not attractive enough for everyone to embrace. After that you cannot but search in non-Western society for their own solutions for justice and good governance. Look at what the tradition brings to the table, and how they then become enriched with new elements. Looking back is also immensely important. They people must from within their own history and tradition give form to their contemporary society. Their uniqueness is in their history, not in ours. We think that – after the liberation movements and the independence – colonialism is already decades old an fully over. We left it behind, but the people that it happened to have not. In their collective conscience and history it is an important part of their identity.”

History of humiliation

It is important to realize that a lot of people that joined Boko Haram and IS really view us as the enemy, Knoope stresses. “We are not in order, that is their serious conviction. They are convinced that westerners try to marginalize Muslims, to humiliate and lower them, and that we allow them no fair, no rightful position in the world. We kill them in the Middle East, Chechnya, and Bosnia, we have them tortured in Guantanamo Bay. As soon as a Muslim crosses our border, he is picked out and humiliated. And now waves of Muslims enter Europe from Syria and Iraq. Then you know how it goes.” In this way the history of humiliation is fed. We must also consider this with regards to the influx of refugees.

Knoope takes a big lesson from history: Generational solidarity plays a much more important role with us then we realize. The anger of people about what was done to their parents, is many times bigger that the anger the parents themselves have felt about what was done to them. That anger travels over the generations. What you are is for a large part influenced by solidarity with your parents. That should not be damaged, because then people are touched in their fundamental values. That can be explosive material.

 

Source: www.knack.be

Interviewer: Anna Luyter

Interview: Peter Knoope

Translated from Dutch by: Jeroen Vlug

 

For more information about Peter Knoope see: http://www.clingendael.nl/person/peter-knoope?lang=en

 

To read the full interview in its original Dutch follow this link: http://www.knack.be/nieuws/wereld/terrorisme-expert-knoope-een-groot-deel-van-de-wereld-haat-ons/article-normal-624191.html

 

 

Government launches reform of “Islam in France”

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Following the January terror attacks in Paris, the French government has launched a reform of the “Islam of France,” pushing for a “dialogue forum,” which is believed to better represent Muslims in their diversity.

Following the January terror attacks in Paris, the French government has launched a reform of the “Islam of France,” pushing for a “dialogue forum,” which is believed to better represent Muslims in their diversity. Government spokesman Stéphane Le Foll announced that the “dialogue forum” would be instituted by this summer, highlighting the “willingness to work to engage in in-depth discussion with Islam’s major players.” Similar to the current situation put in place for Catholicism’s leaders, the forum will meet with the Prime Minister twice annually, stated Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve.

The body will address questions such as the training of imams in France, ritual slaughter, or the security of places for worship, “with the utmost respect for the principles of secularism,” stated Mr. Cazeneuve, insisting on the “Islam’s compatibility with the Republic.”

The idea is to provide more public representation than the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) currently provides. The CFCM was created in 2003 and has been criticized for its lack of representation of France’s Muslim community, estimated to contain between 4 and 5 million people. The CFCM will continue to exist, but “it is up to [the group] to assume its place,” stated Mr. Cazeneuve.

“The CFCM will represent the majority of the new forum and will maintain a pivotal role,” stated one of its vice presidents Anouar Kbibech. Currently, meetings will be held to determine possible members: associations, intellectuals, key figures, etc. The government denies any notion of a “takeover.” The initiative remains within the boundaries of the 1905 law, and the State “has neither the authority to organize a religion nor to determine who are the right Muslims,” indicated a source.

For Mohamed-Ali Adraoui, political scientist and research at IEP-Paris, this announcement is “a Jacobin response to a more complex question. We risk quickly encountering a paradox: in a supposedly secular state where the government is not allowed to interfere in religious affairs, I’m not sure if we’re following a secular approach.”

Another expected measure in a time of “great sensitivity to radicalization,” is the training of imams and chaplains, now encouraged to obtain a university diploma of civic and civil training, which will be instituted in a dozen institutions by the end of the year.

Certain imams have “an insufficient knowledge of the language and the laws,” said Mr. Cazeneuve. The idea is to “support the beginning of a generation of imams fully integrated into the Republic.” Many of the 2,300 mosques and prayer rooms in the country do not have a permanent imam, creating a void within which self-proclaimed imams can gain influence. Other proposed measures include the development of funding for PhD students and reinforcing control of educational establishments.

The reform was long awaited, but the attacks, which prompted increased risk of stigmatization, accelerated the process. 176 Islamophobic acts were reported in January 2012, altogether more than in 2014.

New Book: The Oxford Handbook of European Islam (Jocelyne Cesari, Editor)

European Islam CoverThe Oxford Handbook of European Islam is the first collection to present a comprehensive approach to the multiple and changing ways Islam has been studied across European countries. Parts one to three address the state of knowledge of Islam and Muslims within a selection of European countries, while presenting a critical view of the most up-to-date data specific to each country. These chapters analyse the immigration cycles and policies related to the presence of Muslims, tackling issues such as discrimination, post-colonial identity, adaptation, and assimilation. The thematic chapters, in parts four and five, examine secularism, radicalization, Shari’a, Hijab, and Islamophobia with the goal of synthesizing different national discussion into a more comparative theoretical framework. The Handbook attempts to balance cutting edge assessment with the knowledge that the content itself will eventually be superseded by events. Featuring eighteen newly-commissioned essays by noted scholars in the field, this volume will provide an excellent resource for students and scholars interested in European Studies, immigration, Islamic studies, and the sociology of religion.