Mosque in France
10 December 2018

French Islam: adapting the Law of 1905 to the world of 2018

Full integration of the Muslim religion into the context of the Law of 1905: that was the determination expressed by the Minister of the Interior before the French Council of the Muslim Faith on 9 December.
 

On 9 December 2018, on the occasion of the 113th anniversary of the Law on Separation of Church and State, the Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, assured the heads of the Muslim faith of the Government’s wish to “strengthen” the Law of 1905. The goal: adapting it “to the world of 2018”.

Matching practice with the text

Over the last few weeks, the Minister of the Interior has been consulting with various representatives of religions practised in France on reform of the Law on Separation of Church and State. The emblematic text, which lays down the principles of State secularism in the face of all religious faiths, needs to be amended in order to be more in step with today’s reality.

“We want to strengthen the Law of 1905 in the world of 2018”, Christophe Castaner stated before the Conseil Français du Culte Musulman (CFCM – French Council of the Muslim Faith) during the Congress of Muslims of France on 9 December 2018. The Minister explained that, nowadays, practice was often out of step with the spirit of the text.

There is no question, however, of calling the principles enshrined in the law into question, or of giving the State a role in organisation of Islam. “It is not the State’s business to decide on issues of the Muslim faith’s organisation, which are entirely the responsibility of its followers, but I reject the idea that the State should disengage itself altogether,” the Minister asserted before the CFCM.

“Constructing an Islam that occupies its rightful place in France”

By amending the Law on Separation of Church and State, the Minister of the Interior seeks to integrate Islam fully into France’s legislative framework. Current issues include the funding of various religious associations. The aim would be to obtain greater transparency as well as limit funding coming from abroad.

“French Muslims, society and the State must join forces in this essential fight to construct an Islam that occupies its rightful place in France”, Christophe Castaner had previously stated on 15 November, in an interview with Le Point magazine, “an Islam free from foreign interference and which acts as a prime mover in reducing the spread of radical ideas, particularly among young people.”

In the same interview, the Minister also pointed out that the Law had been amended 17 times since 1905, explaining that “the goal is to ensure that French citizens of the Muslim faith can practise their religion in peace.”

Speaking before the CFCM, Christophe Castaner asserted that the State had no wish to “restrict religious practices by preventing their exercise or organisation.” At a time when voices are raised to demand that Islam be treated differently from other religions and that Imams be salaried, the Minister emphasised that “laws apply to everyone equally, without stigmatisation or difference in treatment.”

How is Islam organised in France?

The Muslim faith in France is currently structured around a number of cultural associations, each with its own organisation and funding. They include the Fédération de la Grande Mosquée de Paris (GMP – Federation of the Great Mosque of Paris), the Fédération Nationale des Musulmans de France (FNMF – National Federation of Muslims of France), the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF – Union of Islamic Organisations in France), the Comité de Coordination des Musulmans Turcs de France (CCMTF – Coordinating Committee for Turkish Muslims in France) and the Fédération Française des Associations Islamiques d'Afrique, des Comores et des Antilles (FFAIACA – French Federation of Islamic Association of Africa, the Comoros and the Antilles).

These various associations are represented in the Conseil Français du Culte Musulman (CFCM – French Council of the Muslim Faith), created in 2003. The Council’s job is to represent all branches of Islam in dealings with the French State. The CFCM’s activities include representing the Muslim faith before the public authorities, organising and building places of worship on French soil, and dialogue with other religions.
 

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