French mosque subsidy dropped in 'foreign meddling' row

French mosque subsidy dropped in 'foreign meddling' row
2 min read
The pullback came after Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin accused the eastern French city of supporting "foreign meddling" on French soil with a planned subsidy for the mosque.
Macron wants the groups to commit in writing to renouncing "political Islam". [Getty]

A controversial plan to use public money for building a mosque in Strasbourg stalled on Friday after the Turkish backers of the project dropped their request for a subsidy.

The pullback came after Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin accused the eastern French city, led by Green mayor Jeanne Barseghian, of supporting  "foreign meddling" on French soil with a planned subsidy for the mosque.

The public money, 2.5 million euros (nearly $3 million), was to go to the Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation (CMIG), a pan-European movement for the Turkish diaspora.

But in an op-ed piece in Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace, a regional paper, Barseghian said the group had now dropped its subsidy request because of a "need to consolidate their financing plan".

Despite an earlier vote backing the payout in principle, the city would "therefore not, as things stand, pay a subsidy for the continuation of the construction of the mosque".

She said the subsidy had been always been contingent on the CMIG signing a new anti-extremism charter championed by President Emmanuel Macron, which the organisation had refused to do.

Two other Muslim confederations active in France have also declined to sign the charter which is part of government attempts to crack down on Islamic extremism, blamed for a series of deadly terror attacks in France since 2015.

Macron wants the groups to commit in writing to renouncing "political Islam" and to respecting French law.

The government has also drafted legislation which would force Muslim groups to declare major foreign funding and would give the state increased powers to shut down speech judged to spread hate or violence.

Relations between France and Turkey have been battered by disputes over the conflicts on Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh, and Turkish accusations of Islamophobia in France.

Macron has also warned against possible Turkish meddling in France's presidential election next year.

Darmanin last month asked the government's top regional representative to file an administrative court complaint to stop the subsidy for the Strasbourg mosque.

Mayor Barseghian responded at the time that the funds would be contingent on Milli Gorus presenting both a solid financing plan and "a reaffirmation of the values of the Republic".

A CMIG official, Eyup Sahin, said that the association refused to sign the charter because it had not been allowed to fully participate in its elaboration.

The CMIG has said it neither answers to the Turkish government nor pursues any Islamist agenda.

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