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Macron unveils curbs on foreign imams in France, in bid to combat separatism

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday announced measures to end a programme that allowed foreign countries to send imams and teachers to provide services without supervision in France in a bid to crack down on what he called the risk of "separatism".

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During a visit to the eastern French city of Mulhouse, Macron said the government sought to combat “foreign interference” in how Islam is practiced and the way its religious institutions are organised 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 programme created in 1977 that allowed nine countries to send imams and 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 programme, which reaches about 80,000 students every year. Around 300 imams were sent to France every year by these countries, and that those who arrived in 2020 would be the last to arrive in such numbers, said Macron.

The government has asked the French Muslim Council (CFCM), the body representing Islam in France, to find solutions to train imams on French soil instead and ensure they can speak French and do not spread Islamist views.

The measures were part of a much-anticipated intervention less than a month before municipal elections in France. Macrons speech came at the end of a visit to Mulhouse, home to a large Muslim community that has been the focus of the French governments campaign against Islamism.

The new rules were 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, said Macron.

"This end to the consular Islam system is extremely important to curb foreign influence and make sure everybody respects the laws of the republic," he told a news conference in Mulhouse.

We cannot have Turkey's laws on France'

The scrapping of the programme granting countries the right to send imams and teachers to France would instead be replaced by bilateral agreements to ensure French state has control over the courses and their content starting in September.

France had agreements with a number of countries, including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, said Macron. But the only country with which France did not reach a bilateral agreement 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 cannot have Turkey's laws on France's ground. No way,” Macron added.

Turkey runs a vast network of mosques inside the country and abroad under the powerful Diyanet, or Directorate of Religious Affairs. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Diyanet budget has dramatically increased amid criticism that the body was being used by Ankara as a foreign policy tool and an attempt to extend Turkeys soft power.

Home to Europes largest Muslim community, estimated at around 6 million, or 8Read More – Source