France has millions of Muslims. Why does it import imams?

PARIS • What to do about Islam in France? Considering Islamist terrorist attacks, communalism and the international manipulation of Muslim communities, the matter is pressing. But it's contentious, because managing Islam seems to go against laicite, France's staunch version of state secularism, and a 1905 law that mandates the separation of church and state.

Wouldn't revising that law be an admission that secularism is bowing to Islamism? On the other hand, if the law isn't revised, or if the French state cannot find other ways of monitoring and steering Islam, then Islam in France risks falling under the control of foreign states or the influence of radicals. That is already the case, actually: Since laicite prohibits the French authorities from using public funds to build mosques or train imams, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have stepped in. According to the news magazine L'Express, 70 per cent of imams practising in France are not French.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2019, with the headline 'France has millions of Muslims. Why does it import imams?'. Print Edition | Subscribe