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French Muslim leaders approve charter for Macron's religious reforms

Mounted Police patrol outside the Grand Mosque in Paris during Friday Prayers on 30 October 2020 in Paris, France. [Kiran Ridley/Getty Images]
Mounted Police patrol outside the Grand Mosque in Paris during Friday Prayers on 30 October 2020 in Paris, France. [Kiran Ridley/Getty Images]

French Muslim leaders approved a "charter of principles" on Saturday as part of President Emmanuel Macron's efforts to eradicate so-called "Islamist separatism" in the country. The charter was drawn up, at Macron's urging, by the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) after the gruesome murder of a schoolteacher who showed satirical cartoons of Prophet Muhammad to students.

The document enshrines French secular values within the practice of Islam in France and ties signatories to upholding state values, including the rejection of extremist Islamist ideals and the recognition of equality between the sexes. It also rejects political Islam, known as Islamism, and defines adherents of the latter as followers of Salafism or Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Tablighi Jamaat movement.

The terms of the charter say that imams must commit to accepting equality of the sexes and teaching followers that "certain cultural practices do not stem from Islam", reported the Times. Such cultural practices, it pointed out, include female genital mutilation, forced marriage and the use of so-called virginity certificates.

Signatories to the charter should "condemn all forms of racism, discrimination and hatred", including anti-Semitism, homophobia and misogyny. Mosques, the text warns, "are not created for the spreading of nationalist speech defending foreign regimes."

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CFCM President Mohammed Moussaoui said on Twitter yesterday: "This charter reaffirms the compatibility of the Muslim faith with the principles of the republic, including secularism, and the commitment of French Muslims to their complete citizenship. It will be shared with imams and regional Muslim leaders with a view to the widest possible consultation and membership."

The document was apparently drafted in six weeks, after Macron urged the CFCM leadership to produce something declaring French Muslims' commitment to the state's secular values. The push came after Macron claimed that Islam is a religion "experiencing a crisis across the world."

Macron's government is pushing through legislation to combat Islamist radicalism and tighten laws on religious education and issues such as polygamy. It has also cracked down on mosques and closed nine Muslim places of worship in recent weeks.

Tensions between the government and Muslim countries have flared in recent months, after Macron's controversial comments about Islam. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described his French counterpart as "a burden on France" in December after urging citizens to boycott French goods. Anti-Macron protests were also held in Pakistan and several Arab states late last year in response to the French leader's remarks.

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