terça-feira, 2 de agosto de 2016
Manuel Valls takes on Islam
Manuel Valls takes on Islam
Prime minister’s call comes amid fears that extreme beliefs are spreading due to lack of religious authority.
8/1/16, 5:56 PM CET
PARIS — With France still reeling from the murder of a priest by Islamist extremists, Prime Minister Manuel Valls proposed an antidote to the increasingly hostile rhetoric about Islam.
In a newspaper piece, Valls argued it was time to redefine Islam’s role in France via a “pact” whose main effects would be to slash foreign funding for mosques and make sure that preachers were trained domestically so sermons were “compatible with democracy.”
“Islam has found its place in the Republic,” Valls wrote in the Journal du Dimanche weekly paper. “But … the times demand we look [with clear eyes] on the rise of Islamism and of globalized jihadism and its apocalyptic worldview.”
“We need a general mobilization of all public actors and civil society … and Muslims have a huge role to play. Our country must prove boldly to the world that Islam is compatible with democracy.”
The prime minister had a political incentive for making his pledge because right-wing opponents are ramping up anti-Islamic rhetoric.
Valls offered few details as to what form such a pact would take. A near dormant institution named the “Foundation for Islam of France” could be empowered to channel domestic funding for the construction of mosques, whereas training of preachers is already carried out via the French university system, albeit on a small scale.
But the prime minister had a political incentive for making his pledge.
Right-wing opponents are ramping up anti-Islamic rhetoric in the wake of terrorist attacks in Nice and Rouen, and calling for sweeping measures against Islam.
“There is a massive Arab-Muslim invasion,” said former MP and conservative politician Nadine Morano. “I don’t want France to become Muslim.”
Last week, center-right MP Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet called for a blanket ban on Salafism — a form of Islam with 15,000 followers at 100 mosques in France, according to official estimates.
A catholic monk welcomes muslim worshippers in the Saint-Pierre-de-lAriane church, prior to a mass on July 31, 2016, in Nice, southeastern France. Muslims across France were invited to participate in Catholic Sunday service to mourn the priest killed by jihadist teenagers
A catholic monk welcomes Muslim worshippers in a church, on July 31, 2016, in Nice, France. Muslims across France were invited to participate in Catholic Sunday service to mourn the priest killed by jihadist teenagers | Jean Christophe Magnenet/AFP via Getty Images
Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Front, echoed the call, saying she wanted to shut down all Salafist mosques. She also argued for “locking up” all people suspected of terrorist activity, whether or not they had been charged.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy joined in. All 11,500 people currently on terror watchlists should be put under house arrest, he said, while visiting any “jihadi” website should be considered a crime akin to pedophilia.
The denunciations of Islam, and the heated rhetoric on security were “unbearable,” wrote Valls.
But he said that foreign influence on French mosques via financing from countries with radical agendas was causing a “terrible poison” to spread through the country.
To fight it, he said France needed to impose greater authority over Islam. Valls argued that only preachers trained in France should be allowed to practice. Furthermore, foreign funding for mosques should be drastically cut back and offset by money from domestic sources.
The Foundation for Islam of France had been an “utter failure,” wrote Valls on Sunday, as were other attempts to establish formal lines of communication between the state and Muslim community leaders.
“We must not be discouraged,” he said. “We must create a balance with the Islam of France under whose terms the Republic guarantees its right to worship. If Islam does not help the Republic fight those who threaten public liberty, it will be harder and harder for the Republic to guarantee freedom of worship.”
At the heart of the matter is how France defines its relationship with Muslim communities.
It’s a question that has eluded generations of French politicians.
In calling for a “pact” to be signed with Islam in France, Valls is echoing France’s 1801 “Concord” with its Jewish community. Signed by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Concord formalized French-Jewish relations by establishing a central Jewish authority.
All attempts to create a similar representative body for Islam have failed. The UOIF, an umbrella group created in 1983, was exposed as detached and powerless when its appeals to stop rioting in 2005 went unheeded. The French Council of Muslim Faith, which was created under Sarkozy in 2003, has fared little better.
Past attempts to nominate a Muslim authority gave rise to vicious squabbling between subsections of France’s Muslim community.
Since neither group had much authority, or ability to raise funds, French Muslims appealed for foreign funding to finance the building of new mosques. Dozens were funded by donors in Gulf States and Egypt, often with the proviso that a preacher from the country responsible practice in the building.
Now Valls wants to beef up domestic mosque funding by resurrecting the Foundation. But in order to give it teeth, he will need to relax laws forbidding the state from offering direct subsidies to any religion — a thorny subject in secular France.
There is also the question of who would hold the purse strings. Past attempts to nominate a Muslim authority gave rise to vicious squabbling between subsections of France’s Muslim community — the French Council of Muslim Faith is largely Algerian, for example, while the UOIF is mostly Tunisian.
Such challenges explain why Valls was vague on details to describe how his “pact” with Islam might be implemented, or on what timeframe.