Highlighting the risk of “separatism” and “foreign interference” in the way Islam is practised in the country, the French President Emmanuel Macron on February 18 (Tuesday) announced that his administration would restrict other countries from sending imams and Islamic teachers to France after the year 2020. Every year around 300 Imams go to France from countries all across the world.
Addressing a news conference during his visit to the eastern city of Mulhouse, Macron said he would gradually put a stop to the practice in which foreign countries deploy imams to France to preach in mosques and teach Islam to students.
He said that this step was necessary to curb Islamic Extremis and terrorist activities in France. “This end to the consular Islam system is extremely important to curb foreign influence and make sure everybody respects the laws of the republic,” said the French President.
Macron asserted that his administration had asked the French Muslim Council (CFCM), the body representing Islam in France, to instead focus on training imams on French territory and ensuring they can speak French and not spread radical Islamist views.
The French President opined that though it is true that not all terrorists are Muslims, however, most such terror-related cases have links with Islamic terrorism. This is why such rigid steps were being taken, said Macron.
He furthered that France will establish bilateral agreements with other countries to allow French authorities to have control over school courses and their content starting in September.
“From September, the teaching of culture, and in foreign languages, will be removed from everywhere on Republic soil,” Macron said.
According to Macron, 300 imams are sent to France each year. Those who come in 2020 would be the last intake, he said. “The problem is when in the name of a religion, some want to separate themselves from the Republic and therefore not respect its laws,” Macron said adding that after September this year, foreign Muslim Imams would be banned from entering France.
“Mosques financed with transparency with imams trained in France and respectful of the Republican values and principles, that’s how we will create the conditions so that Muslims in France can practice freely their religion,” Macron said.
France has agreements with nine countries, including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, under which their governments can send teachers to French schools to teach languages to students originally from these countries. Macron said he has reached an agreement to end the practice with all of these countries except Turkey.
“I won’t let any country, whatever it is, feed separatism,” Macron said. “You can’t have Turkish law on French soil. That can’t be.” He added that “Turkey today can make the choice to follow that path with us or not, but I won’t let any foreign country feed a cultural, religious or identity-related separatism on our Republic’s ground.”
In 2018, France Prime Minister Edouard Philippe had also announced steps including creation of isolation zones for Islamist militants in France’s prisons and more scrutiny on the licensing of faith-based schools that opt out of the state-funded system to combat what he called a “slow-burning threat from Islamist radicalization”.
“Islamist radicalization is a threat to our society, and not just when it leads to violence. It’s a challenge every time the law of the state is respected only if compatible with religious tenets,” the Prime Minister had said.
France has been long combating Islamic radicalisation and violent extremism. Children radicalisation is also growing in France and often results in excessive measures. We had reported how two radicalised teens had wanted to blow up the Eiffel Tower after embracing Islam in 2016.
In 2015, a string of deadly attacks was carried out by Islamist militants, including the massacres at the Charlie Hebo satirical magazine and Bataclan music venue.
In February 2018, the French government presented a new plan to combat Islamist threat in a 60-measure document entitled “Prevent to Protect.” The plan, presently in place, calls for a cross-disciplinary approach, including the reinforcement of secularism in schools and a “greater awareness of radicalization” in the workplace.