French Islamic Council Suggests Requiring Imams to Obtain ‘License to Preach’

French Islamic Council AP PhotoFrancois Mori
AP/Francois Mori

In a novel move, a major French Muslim body has suggested issuing preaching permits to imams, effectively vetting who can and cannot preach.

After the jihadist atrocities of November 13, Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), said that in order to promote a “tolerant and open Islam,” imams in France should be required to apply for a preaching permit, “like a driver’s license,” which could also be revoked.

In this way, he said, France could more easily root out “extremists” who are spreading jihad and terror rather than faith.

To obtain the permit, imams would be tested on their theological knowledge but also their acceptance of principles of French society such as the history of religions, the institutions of the French Republic, and a secular state. The group is also drafting an “imams’ charter” that prospective preachers would be required to sign, including an agreement to “respect the laws of the Republic.”

Kbibech, a former engineer, did not specify whether such authorization would become mandatory for all imams.

“The time for action has come. The Muslims of France will be fully engaged” in the fight, he said. “The CFCM is determined to assume its responsibilities.”

Appointed to head the French Council of the Muslim Faith in June, Kbibech said: “Our main role is to promote an Islam of dialogue” and added that those who engaged in violence would “never have the support of France’s Muslims.”

The initiative comes hard on the heels of two major demonstrations by Italy’s Muslim community. On Sunday, hundreds of Muslims gathered in Rome and Milan to publicly denounce the Islamic State and disassociate themselves from terrorist activities.

Calling their protest “Not in My Name,” the groups decried the Islamic State as a “cancer” and repudiated its actions.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome