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French Muslim council agrees accord on 'principles' sought by Macron

  • Published at 11:16 am January 18th, 2021
French President Emmanuel Macron
File photo: French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he delivers a speech during a press conference, as a part of his visit in Mulhouse on February 18, 2020 Reuters

Macron's government is also pushing through legislation to combat 'pernicious' Islamist radicalism

France's Muslim federations agreed on Sunday on a "charter of principles" requested by President Emmanuel Macron in his bid to eradicate sectarianism and extremism.

Macron urged the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) to devise the charter in November, after the jihadist killing of a schoolteacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed to students.

The charter rejects "instrumentalising" Islam for political ends and affirms equality between men and women, while denouncing practices such as female circumcisions, forced marriages or "virginity certificates" for brides.

It also explicitly rejects racism and anti-Semitism, and warns that mosques "are not created for the spreading of nationalist speech defending foreign regimes."

"This charter reaffirms the compatibility of the Muslim faith with the principles of the Republic, including secularism, and the commitment of French Muslims to their complete citizenship," CFCM president Mohammed Moussaoui said.

In a statement posted on Twitter, he added the charter would be shared with imams and local leaders, "with a view to the widest possible consultation and membership."

Its formal adoption by the nine federations of the CFCM opens the way to a vast restructuring of Islam in France, particularly the creation of a National Council of Imams (CNI) which will be responsible for "labelling" imams practicing in the country.

Earlier, several member federations of the CFCM had criticised the idea of a charter declaring Islam compatible with French law and values -- the first step toward creating the proposed CNI.

But Moussaoui and his two vice presidents hammered out an accord in a meeting with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

"There was an awareness that these disagreements were preventing the Muslim community from asserting itself," Moussaoui told AFP. "This awareness allowed us to overcome our differences."

"I commend the work undertaken by the French Muslim community which clearly condemns political Islam," Darmanin said on Twitter.

The charter is part of Macron's hopes to "liberate" Islam from radicalised influences that encroach on France's strict secularism and which are blamed for a wave of jihadist killings in recent years.

His government has embarked on a crackdown against extremist mosques and associations, and plans to remove the roughly 300 imams in France sent to teach from Turkey, Morocco and Algeria.

Macron's government is also pushing through legislation to combat "pernicious" Islamist radicalism, which would tighten rules on issues ranging from religious-based education to polygamy.

The move, along with the president's defence of controversial Mohamed cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo, has stoked anger among many in the Muslim world who believe Macron is unfairly targeting an entire religion.

Macron has rejected the claims, saying the law aims to protect the country's estimated four to five million Muslims, the largest number in Europe.

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