Structuring of Islam in France: “We want to believe in it”

“There is no reason to think that Islam cannot find its place, like all the other religions, within the French Republic. Yes, Islam is a French religion, a religion like any other. She is neither the favorite of the state, nor the least loved”.

It was through a reassuring speech, multiplying historical references – from Saint Louis to the 1905 law via the Napoleonic Concordat – that the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, addressed, Saturday, February 5 after- noon, to the 80 participants in the first edition of the Forum de l’islam de France (Forif). The sequence, to say the least political, took place in the hemicycle of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (Cese), at the Palais d’Iéna, in Paris.

Get out of a “Consular Islam”

Criticizing both populists and Islamists – and their ” project “ common to fight the secular Republic -, the minister insisted, in this speech of nearly half an hour, on the urgency of getting out of a“Consular Islam” too dependent on foreign countries. Hence the need to imagine a “a new form of dialogue, more open, more diverse, more representative of the reality of Islam in France”.

Desired by President Macron and inspired by the German model, this “new form of dialogue” has a name: the Forum de l’islam de France. Announced in December, it aims to turn the page on the French Council for Muslim Worship (CFCM), created by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2003, but undermined by internal dissension.

Publicly endorsing the end of the system of a “unique representative of the Muslim faith” with the public authorities, Gérald Darmanin confirmed that it was now giving way to “groups organized by theme to achieve concrete results”.

Field actors

“Concrete”, “effective”, “constructive”, “goodwill” : these words did not stop resounding, on Saturday, under the high ceilings of the Palais d’Iéna. The 80 participants in Forif chosen by the State – in particular through the intermediary of the prefects after the territorial foundations of Islam (in 2018, 2019 and 2021) – were for two thirds actors in the field (imams, chaplains, presidents of mosques). Most often involved in the Muslim faith on a voluntary basis, these engineers, entrepreneurs and other teachers came from all over the territory, from Aude to Pas-de-Calais.

“We avoid getting too carried away and already seeing ourselves as the substitute for the CFCM: if we’re there, it’s like experts, to contribute to the reflection”, insists Abdessalem Souiki, mathematics teacher and independent imam in Marseille. Same caution on the side of Mohammed Khenissi, founder of the Hermeneo association, who describes the approach as“embryonic”although the dynamics seem to him “very attractive”. “We want to believe it”, he summarizes.

A “welcome diversity”

Like him, several participants in Forif admit having initially had some reluctance to respond to the government’s invitation: was this not a political maneuver, two months before the presidential election? And why such a rush between December and February? At the end of this first day in plenary, however, enthusiasm seemed to prevail, with participants praising a “welcome diversity” and an ” warm environment “.

The atmosphere was also studious, especially when the four working groups – from 12 to 20 members each – reported to Gérald Darmanin on their initial conclusions. These groups, which have already met several times by videoconference prior to this plenary, have respectively worked on the organization of chaplaincies, the professionalization of religious leaders, the application of the law against separatism, and anti-Muslim acts. .

A fifth working group should soon see the light of day on the crucial question of financing (in particular the money for the halal and the pilgrimage to Mecca). The Muslim Association for Islam of France (Amif) of Hakim El Karoui will be part of it. The subject, sensitive, caused a stir during the discussions in plenary in the morning.

Arrive at a structuring of the Muslim cult

The objective of Forif is indeed, in the long term, to lead to a structuring of the Muslim worship at the departmental level, through councils of mosques and councils of imams. For the time being, we are assured behind the scenes, this forum has nothing to do with a representative body. But the question of knowing who will play the role of interlocutor with the public authorities will inevitably arise.

As for the one who played this role so far, the CFCM, it could dissolve itself in the coming weeks. An outcome advocated by its president Mohammed Moussaoui. Present on Saturday at Forif, he warns however that this is coming ” very difficult “. A two-thirds majority is indeed required to proceed with such a dissolution. However, the question does not achieve consensus within the office.


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