Suspending the system of foreign imams in France is a challenge that raises many questions in the opinion of experts, whether in terms of funding or training, which points to the difficulty of organizing the Islamic religion in this country .
France – where Islam is the second religion – has signed bilateral agreements since the 1980s, allowing up to 3 countries to send imams for a 4-year period. These countries are Türkiye, Algeria and Morocco.
In 2020, President Emmanuel Macron promised to end the arrangement by 2024, with the aim of fighting “Islamic separatism”. Since the beginning of this January, no foreign imam has been able to visit France. As for those on French soil, they now have until April 1 to change their administrative status.
Mohamed Moussaoui, head of the French Mosque Federation, believes that there is no need to worry about imams coming from Morocco from 2021 onwards, as they have been appointed by associations affiliated to the French Mosque Federation, and now they Are not. Get money from Rabat.
According to Ibrahim Alji, head of the coordination committee for Turkish Muslims in France, there are still 60 representative imams from the Turkish side, and he says about 10 of them should stay, and they will be appointed by the union.
As for the Algerian imams, Chams al-Din Hafez, dean of the Grand Mosque in Paris, confirmed that he took over the leadership 3 years ago, adding that only 4 out of 120 imams want to return, and as for the rest The imams, their linguistic proficiency conditions and the university courses they have studied are being verified.
funding and training
Late last December, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin called for imams to be appointed by associations, but Hafez says funding would be too heavy a burden.
The idea of executive authority is focused on reducing the influence of the countries where these imams come from, but Frank Fregosi, director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research, talks about the possibility of a “show” if some countries pay. We do. Funding for a structure that brings associations together and pays imams.
According to his opinion, the matter is not just about foreign imams, who represent only 10% of the total workforce in the region, given that many unions do not have the means to pay for a full-time imam. Therefore, the social position is unstable, not secure, especially without a pension, and attracts only a small number of qualified people.
Darmanin also expressed hope that an increasing proportion of imams in France would be trained, even if partially.
But Darmanin said that a distinction should be made between two aspects: the secular aspect, as today about 30 university degrees offer training on issues related to secularism and citizenship, as confirmed by the Ministry of the Interior, and the religious aspect, as There are some centers that offer specific training, such as the “Al-Ghazali Institute” affiliated to the Grand Mosque in Paris, the Islamic Institute of the Mosques Federation of France in Strasbourg, or even the European Institute for Anthropology, which It was founded by French Muslims, but Imamate is not a condition of obtaining any specific certificate.