Following the terror attacks on Paris, French politicians from “anti-racism” groups, socialist and even hard left parties are rushing to agree with Marie Le Pen of the Front National, who called for Islamic sermons in mosques to be given in French not Arabic, over a year ago.
Proponents argue the move would encourage integration and transparency; Muslim leaders have described the call as a provocation.
The brutal Islamist terror attack on the French capital, just three weeks ago, left the nation shaken and shed new light on the largely immigrant ghettos of France and Belgium, where Islamic separatism and opposition to Western integration has become the norm.
“Sermons in France shouldn’t be in Arabic,” said former centre-right Prime Minister Alain Juppé. He even insisted that lawmakers should investigate whether France’s forcefully secular constitutional could be interpreted as obliging imams to use the French language in French mosques, the Local reports.
Socialist Julien Dray, a former spokesman for President François Hollande and co-founder of the group SOS Racism, told RTL Radio: “You have to be careful with the sermons of imams. The fact that prayers are in Arabic is understandable, but it’s important the sermons are in French”.
He said: “In the Jewish religion, the sermons are in French and the prayers are in Hebrew. The sermon – that’s where the message is delivered. It has to be in French”.
Even Jean-Michel Baylet, president of France’s Radical Party of the Left, was in agreement: “All religions in France [should be] carried out in French by ministers who are well-established in the country”, he said.
The issue has, therefore, brought representatives of the centre-right, left and far left to agree with Marine Le Pen, the nationalist leader of France’s Front National who told Europe 1 radio at the end of 2014:
“It’s not difficult to require sermons in France to be given in French. That would also make it much easier to report what subjects are being dealt with”.
France has the largest Muslim population in Europe — between five and six million — and the number mosques across the country are rising rapidly.
However, an IPSOS survey published by the French daily Le Monde in 2013 indicated that only 26 per cent of French respondents believed that Islam was compatible with French society.
This Tuesday the head of the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) called for imams to be issued with permits to preach and for a new religious body to fight back against jihadist propaganda.
Anouar Kbibech said the country’s imams should be given a certificate, “like a driving licence”, that would ensure they “respect the laws of the Republic” and promote a “tolerant and open Islam”.
However, the secretary general of the Union of France’s Mosques, Mohammed Mraizika, told the Local that proponents of the new measures were “the type of politicians who like to pour oil on the fire and watch it burn”.
“To ask the imams to read the sermon in French is counterproductive. It wouldn’t help solve the problem,” he said. “What matters is the subject of the sermon. It needs to clear, and strong, and condemn extremism and terrorism”.