Church & Ministries

France targets foreign funds for mosques to stop radicalism

Reuters – People walk past flowers left in tribute at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack near the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, on July 21, 2016.

The French government is planning to ban foreign funds from being funneled to mosques after the country got hit by three major terrorist attacks in the last year and a half.

Last month, a cargo truck rammed a crowd on Bastille Day in Nice that resulted in the death of 85 people.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced the move to stop foreign funds for mosques “for a period to be determined,” the Washington Post reported.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed that since December last year, 20 Salafist mosques have been closed.

“There is no place in France for those who call for and incite hatred in prayer halls or in mosques,” said Cazeneuve

But French Muslims are crying foul over the move.

“It gives the idea that mosques have something to do with terrorism,” said Marwan Muhammad, director of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France. “It’s a way of problematising Muslims once again.”

In France, there are about 2,500 Muslim “houses of prayer,” not all are classified as mosques. Only about 120 of these are associated with radical Salafism.

The French Parliament, in a committee report released last month, showed that funding for new French mosques comes from individual donors in France and not from foreign governments.

It revealed that the bulk of foreign funding came from Morocco and Algeria, which have sent a total of 8 million euros so far this year.

In France, mosques, like other houses of worship, are not entitled to get state funding. The only way they can receive funds is through individuals and charity organisations.

“On the one hand, there is the intent to organise Islam in France in order to have greater control,” the report said. “On the other hand, [Islam] cannot be touched because of the 1905 law. The equation is unsolvable.” That law provides the separation of church and state in France.

The report recommended that the French government should have a foundation to monitor foreign funds going to French mosques.

Lawmaker Nathalie Goulet told France 24 that the idea is “not to ban foreign financing but to make it transparent and conditional.”

The government announced the establishment of the Foundation for Islamic Works, which will monitor foreign funds and oversee the training of foreign-born imams.

It will be supervised by former interior minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement, according to the announcement, which drew protests from French Muslims.

“The first is that they chose someone who doesn’t represent anything to the Muslim community — it’s like they’re confiscating Muslim opinion,” Muhammad said. “It’s also saying that of the 4 million Muslims in France, none of them is capable of holding this position. Among all this wealth of people, not one of them — man or woman — is capable.”

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