Dialogue with Islam in France
The Interior Minister made a statement on dialogue with Islam in France.
With the number of anti-Muslim acts since 7 January having already reached the level observed in the whole of 2014, ensuring the security of mosques and Muslim sites is a priority for the government: nearly 1,000 are today being protected by soldiers, police or gendarmes, and resources are planned in 2015 to help fund security equipment (CCTV protection). On a more general level, preventing and cracking down on anti-Muslim acts will be a major plank of the policy of fighting racism and anti-Semitism, a policy which is a great national cause in 2015.
In a Republic of laïcité [secularism] (1), it is not for the state to decide on religions’ internal organization. But the state must engage in dialogue with their representatives, to examine their issues of concern, central to which is the exercise of freedom of religion in compliance with the rules of the Republic.
The government is therefore committed – as shown by yesterday’s meeting between the Interior Minister and the board of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM)
– to broad consultation with Islam’s stakeholders in France. In each department, prefects [high-ranking civil servants who represent the state] have been asked to initiate dialogue with local representatives of the Muslim faith, in such a way as to highlight our Muslim compatriots’ issues and concerns. On this basis, an invitation will be sent between now and the summer to representatives of Islam in France, to meet in a “dialogue body” to examine subjects such as the security of places of worship, preventing and cracking down on anti-Muslim acts, civil training for imams, the organization of chaplaincies and raising the profile of Islam’s social, cultural and educational work.
To enable Islam in France to draw on imams well integrated into the national community, the government will encourage higher education institutions to launch training courses leading to university civil and civic training diplomas specially adapted for future imams. In particular, these university diplomas will have to become a compulsory stage in the career of prison chaplains, who will be increased in number in 2015 to counter the spread in prison of distorted religious language inciting to violent radicalization.
The government will also seek to ensure that private Muslim faith education can develop while respecting Republican principles. To this end, instructions will be sent to prefects and rectors to make full use of their monitoring powers.
A new foundation will have to be created by the end of 2015 to fund projects of general interest (cultural, educational and social) and promote Islam’s activities in France. A preparatory mission will be tasked with completing this transformation by the end of 2015. Moreover, a research programme will be established on Islam in France, the Muslim world and Islamology./.
(1) laïcité goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the state.