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CAIR condemns President Macron’s ultimatum to French Muslim leaders

French President Macron issued an ultimatum to Muslim leaders in the country [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 November, 2020

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CAIR accused President Macron of turning 'Liberté, égalité, fraternité' into 'repression, inequality and division'.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has condemned French President Emmanuel Macron's ultimatum to French Muslim leaders that they declare Islam is an apolitical religion.

President Macron held discussions on Wednesday evening with Islamic representativesFrance24 reported, requesting they agree to a charter which France's Council of the Islamic Faith (CFCM) must abide by.

Macron said the charter should include an affirmation of French values, a specification that Islam in France is a religion and not a political movement, and stipulate an end to any interference or affiliation with foreign countries.

The French president gave France's Muslim leaders 15 days to agree to the charter.

CAIR, the US' largest Muslim civil rights organisation, slammed Macron's ultimatum.

In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said: "The French government has no right to tell Muslims or any other religious minority how to interpret their own faith."

"President Macron must reverse course before his nation returns to the colonial racism and religious bigotry that haunted so many European nations for centuries," He added.

"President Macron is turning 'Liberté, égalité, fraternité' into 'repression, inequality and division.'"

CAIR recently advised American Muslims against travelling to France, where it said the French government's "hypocritical and dangerous" campaign of "Islamophobia" targets French Muslims. The French government claims it is only targeting extremism and political Islam.

"Although France claims to uphold religious freedom, the truth is that French Muslims do not have the First Amendment protections enjoyed by people of faith in America. It is therefore our duty to speak out in defense of their religious rights and freedoms," Director Awad said in the statement.

Wednesday's meeting between President Macron and French Muslim representatives included discussions on the formation of a national council of imams which would be responsible for the approval of Muslim clerics in the country.

The CFCM has agreed to create such a council, the BBC reported Wednesday.

The head of the French Council of the Islamic Faith, Mohamed Mousavi and the dean of the Paris Mosque, Shams El Din Hafez, attended the meeting, in addition to representatives of the nine federations that make up the French Council of the Islamic Faith (CFCM).

The CFCM is a nationally elected body which serves as an official interlocutor with the French state in the regulation of Muslim religious activities.

'Confusion'

President Macron told the meeting attendees that it is necessary to "get out of this confusion", saying he believes a number of them have ambiguous positions on certain issues.
The newly-created Council of Imams will not only be able to issue permits to Muslim religious leaders, but also have the power to withdraw them if perceived to violate the "Charter of Republic Values" Macron has asked them to agree to. 

Depending on the role of the imams, they w a certain fluency in the French language and possess university-level academic qualifications.

Macron hopes, with the formation of the National Council of Imams, to remove the presence of 300 foreign imams from Turkey, Morocco and Algeria within four years.

Cartoon controversy

The grisly beheading last month of teacher Samuel Paty, who showed his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a lesson on free speech, has reignited debate on Islam in France 

Macron has defended France's strict brand of secularism and the re-publishing of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, sparking a backlash from Muslims around the world.

He has also been accused of persecuting Muslims in France, with authorities currently cracking down on Muslim NGOs under a new 'separatism' law that has been criticised as curtailing civil liberties.

Even before the beheading last month, Macron had promised a tough new campaign against "Islamism" which had aroused controversy and condemnation from Muslims around the world.

Read more: Macron faces backlash after claiming 'secularism never killed anyone'

Protests against Macron's perceived Islamophobia erupted have across the Muslim world, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mali, Mauritania, Lebanon and Yemen.

World leaders have also weighed in on the matter, with Macron and Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan trading barbs and insults. 

Agencies contributed to this report.

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