multiculturalism froggie style

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    Friday 29 August 2003, 4:35 Makka Time, 1:35 GMT

    France wants the country's imams to be "imbued with French culture" in order to control the spread of political Islam.

    Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday Paris should open a seminary to train imams to fight the spread of "Islamic fundamentalism".

    He added there ought to be "a training institute for the imams of France, who speak French, who are imbued with our culture".

    Sarkozy was the driving force behind the creation this year of a council to better integrate France's five million Muslims into society.


    He said two thirds of the 889 imams in France live on welfare and more than 60% do not speak French.

    In April, French Muslim groups elected a French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) to foster a better understanding of Islam in the staunchly secular state.

    Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin told the CFCM he expected it to be the "enlightened voice of Islam" and to combat threats to the country's social cohesion.

    French security officials say they see "radical Islam" as one of the major threats to the French state.

    The CFCM council is headed by Dalil Boubakeur, head of the moderate Grand Mosque of Paris which is favoured by the government.


    But his group only came third in last April's voting, behind the more independent Union of Islamic Organisations in France.

    The group, whose doctrines are close to the Muslim Brotherhood, has gained ground in recent years among France's Muslims.

    Many of the country's Muslims have rediscovered their Islamic values in recent years.

    They complain of being discriminated against by the French government and have reported rising cases of Islamophobia.

    © 2003 Aljazeera.Net



    Tuesday 16 September 2003, 21:10 Makka Time, 18:10 GMT

    Splits are emerging in the French government over whether it should ban the wearing of Islamic veils in its schools.

    The differences emerged during a commission on secularity which will decide if new legislation is needed to handle a growing debate over religion in schools.

    An outcome is expected as early as next month, although a definite date has yet to emerge.

    Social Affairs Minister Francois Fillon told the panel he was "favourable to a law forbidding the ostentatious wearing of any religious sign".

    His view, he said, was based on France's strict secular tradition in the public sector and in the interests of integrating immigrants by instilling French values.


    But Education Minister Luc Ferry said "to tackle 10 contentious cases a year, it's maybe going a bit overboard to create a specific law".

    Instead, he and his schools minister, Xavier Darcos, said a future law should "positively affirm the principle of secularism".

    France's 60-million strong population counts around five million Muslims, and tensions in some schools have risen recently with teachers ordering Muslim girls to take off their scarves or leave the class.

    Ferry estimated there were around 100 cases a year of disputes in schools over the scarves, with about a dozen of those cases turning into lawsuits.


    He admitted some principals had been handling the issue themselves, without notifying higher authorities, because they understood that "this would create problems for them".

    In an effort to get around the banning of the scarves in state schools, a private Muslim high school opened in the northern city of Lille this month with 12 students.

    The six girls in the Lycee Averroes all wear veils.

    French Muslim groups say the scarf ban is an attack on Islamic culture which alienates Muslims from French society rather than endears them to it.

    @ 2003 Aljazeera.Net

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