French minister meets Muslim leaders to bridge gaps

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Source: Aljazeera

Muslim leaders and politicians in France have met Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to discuss the future of Islam in the country.

Tensions are high between France and its Muslim community in the wake of a controversial ban of swimwear worn by some Muslim women, known as the burkini, and a string of recent attacks around the country.

At Monday’s day-long meeting in the capital, Paris, Cazeneuve said he intended to establish a new foundation for aligning Muslims more with France’s interpretation of secularism.

“The struggle against radical Islam should in no way be carried out against the Muslims in France, the vast majority of whom are republicans who simply want to live their religion in a dignified and peaceful way,” said Cazeneuve.

Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from Paris, said the meeting concluded with plans to set up three organisations to bridge a widening cultural and religious gap in French society.

The first would look at the integration of the Muslim faith, the second at the building of mosques, and the third at Imams, our correspondent said.

“The state wants to try and have some sort of control over how Muslims are … preached to in this country,” said Turton, pointing to Cazeneuve’s comments that the Imams would have to give sermons in French and not Arabic, and to “understand French values”.

But some Muslim leaders at the conference said they were “quite skeptical” whether these organisations could make a difference, “especially with the younger generation, many of whom are marginalised and isolated in French society”, said Turton.

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