France to end imam, teacher deals to counter extremism

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French President Emmanuel Macron, arrives for a meeting with associations, in Mulhouse, eastern France, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. Macron said Tuesday he was determined to fight against “Islamist separatism” but also “discrimination ». (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, Pool)

MULHOUSE, France (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday announced measures intended to counter Islamic extremism in France by giving the government more authority over the schooling of children, the financing of mosques and the training of imams.

Macron, during a visit to the city of Mulhouse in eastern France, said the government sought to combat “foreign interference” in how Islam is practiced and the way its religious institutions are organized in the secular country.

“The problem is when in the name of a religion, some want to separate themselves from the Republic and therefore not respect its laws,” he said.

Macron said he plans to end a program created in 1977 that allowed nine countries to send teachers to France to provide foreign language and culture classes without any supervision from French authorities.

Four majority-Muslim countries – Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Turkey – were involved in the program, which reaches about 80.000 students every year.

Macron said France instead will have bilateral agreements with other nations to ensure the French state has control over the courses and their content starting in September.

The French leader said a new law is being drafted to provide transparency in how mosques are financed.

Macron said he asked the French Muslim Council, the CFCM, to improve the training of imams in France. He said the practice of allowing Algeria, Morocco and Turkey to send imams to France. would be phased out.

“Mosques financed with transparency with imams trained in France and respectful of the Republican values and principles, that’s how we will create the conditions so that Muslims in France can practice freely their religion,” Macron said.

Macron said the only country with which France didn’t reach an agreement on the new measures was Turkey.

“Turkey today can make the choice to follow that path with us or not, but I won’t let any foreign country feed a cultural, religious or identity-related separatism on our Republic’s ground,” he said.

“We can not have Turkey’s laws on France’s ground. No way,” Macron added.

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Sylvie Corbet writes from Paris

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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