Islamic funding in France comes under fire

Published August 3rd, 2016 - 04:00 GMT
Muslim women visit a chateau in Nantes, France. (AFP/Jean-Sebastien Evrard)
Muslim women visit a chateau in Nantes, France. (AFP/Jean-Sebastien Evrard)

The organization and financing of the Muslim faith in France, has come under fire from politicians after the succession of jihadist attacks in recent months.

The Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve followed Prime Minister Manuel Valls in promising action. 'The Foundation of Islam in France' will be launched in October with the aim of developing a counter-narrative to discredit extremist discourse and creating more transparency in the foreign funding of mosques.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced: "We'll say this again, there's no room in France for those who call for and provoke hatred in prayer rooms or mosques and do not respect the principles of the Republic. I am thinking namely of equality, between men and women"

Expulsion orders
Under the state of emergency, since December, a score "of mosques and prayer rooms considered radical have been closed. Since 2012, 80 extremist preachers have been issued with arrest and expulsion orders" with dozens already enforced.

The separation of Church and State
A report from a French Senate inquiry, published in early July, states: "Since the Government can not fund any place of worship, under the 1905 law, those of faith are trying to take charge of the situation by calling for donations from certain foreign countries".

Three countries send full-time imams to France in this way:

Turkey sent 151 imams
Algeria sent 120 imams
Morocco sent 30 imams
So in total, 301 Imams spanning 2,500 places of worship in France are funded by foreign states.

Foreign funding
In 2016 Morocco allocated a budget of six million euros to the Islamic faith in France this included the salaries of thirty imams.

Since 2011 Saudi Arabia has forked out almost four million euros to finance the construction of eight mosques in France and pay the salaries of about 14 imams.

The rise of radicalism
According to the latest report on radicalisation, published in February 2015, the number of mosques and prayer rooms that have fallen into the hands of fundamentalists has more than doubled in four years, from 44 to 89 between 2010 and 2014.

Stem extremism and promote transparency
According to the Senate inquiry, the move is not about banning funding from abroad, rather it is about promoting transparency and stemming the spread of extremist religious discourse in places of worship.

However, the process of radicalisation is not confined to mosques. It is rife in prisons and on social networks, so what more can be done in these areas to tackle the problem?

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