France seeks a new start with the Muslim community

The French Interior Minister met with senior Muslim officials and agreed that efforts to foster good relations will include the establishment of an Islamic foundation funded solely with French money.

The Secretary General of the French Council for Muslim Worship (CFCM) Abdallah Zekri (left) and the Rector of the Paris Mosque Dalil Boubakeur (center) arrive for a meeting with the Minister of the Interior and representatives of the Muslim community on August 29, 2016 in Paris. (TRT World and Agencies)

The French government on Monday sought to open a new chapter in relations with the country’s Muslims after a summer marked by terrorist attacks and a ban on burkini that sparked tensions.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve met with senior Muslim officials and agreed that efforts to foster good relations will include the establishment of an Islamic foundation, funded only with money from France.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (right) and representatives of the Muslim community on August 29, 2016 in Paris.  Image: AFP

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (right) and representatives of the Muslim community on August 29, 2016 in Paris. Image: AFP (TRT World and Agencies)

But Prime Minister Manuel Valls, speaking later Monday, called for a fight to defeat what he called “Islamist totalitarianism” which aimed to “smash democracies, stifle individual freedoms and install a new social order. in which men dominate women “.

The burkini is banned on the beaches of around thirty cities, some mayors linking these bans to the terrorist attack of July 14 in Nice which left 86 dead and to the murder of a Catholic priest near Rouen by supporters of DAESH .

The controversy surrounding the burkini, the full body swimwear, is expected to continue after several mayors said they would ignore a decision by the country’s highest administrative court to suspend the ban.

Anouar Kbibech, head of the French Council for Muslim Worship (CFCM), said he hoped Monday’s talks would open a new chapter.

“This positive development will put an end to the loathsome burkini saga,” he said.

Cazeneuve said the purpose of the talks was to forge “an Islam anchored in the values ​​of the French Republic”.

He stressed, however, that all religions must abide by French laws on the strict separation of religion and state.

A woman wearing a headscarf joins a protest organized by

A woman wearing a headscarf joins a demonstration organized by “Stand up to Racism” in front of the French embassy in London on August 26, 2016 against the ban on the burkini on French beaches. Image: AFP (TRT World and Agencies)

The talks will lead to the creation of a “Foundation for Islam in France”, through which funds will be raised in France rather than abroad in order to ensure transparency in the provision of funds.

But the choice of former Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement, 77, as head of the foundation sparked controversy, with many observers wondering why a Muslim was not appointed to this post.

“Prevention of radicalization”

Chevènement evaded the controversy by telling AFP: “As a former Minister of the Interior myself, I could not refuse the opportunity to contribute to this initiative of great public interest”.

Hakim El Karoui, a secular Muslim who took part in Monday’s talks, said Chevènement’s choice was “awkward to say the least.”

Cazeneuve, the current interior minister, said the foundation would serve as a “bridge between the French state and Muslims in France”.

Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun and Kamel Kabtane, rector of a mosque in downtown Lyon, are among the Muslims who will sit on the foundation’s board of directors.

France’s secular laws mean that the scope of the foundation is limited to areas such as education and research.

“If given the financial means, Muslim institutions can strengthen their role in preventing radicalization,” Kbibech said.

burkini

The anti-Islamophobia group that led the legal challenge to the burkini ban said it would go to court this week to force four towns on the French Riviera – Nice, Menton, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and Fréjus – to abandon the measure.

Nice is one of the cities that refused to comply with the court ruling.

Images of police apparently ordering a woman in a burkini on the beach in Nice to undress, in contravention of the ban, sparked outrage around the world.

Authorities in Nice, however, insisted that she was simply showing police the swimsuit she was wearing under her top when the photos were taken.

Eighty-six people were killed in Nice in July and more than 400 people were injured when Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a truck into the crowd leaving fireworks on the Nice seafront during the French National Day .

Source: TRT World

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