CFCM struggles to maintain own status
The year 2018 was important for the rivals of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, which is known by its acronym CFCM.
The role of the council is apparently in danger as far as issues, such as the training of mosque imams; financing the mosques; approving halal products, and representing Muslims, are concerned.
The Muslim Association of France, which is run by Hakim El Karoui, called for the presence of a unified tax on all halal products. This made it necessary for CFCM to intervene. The Association for Financing and Supporting the Muslim Faith (AFSCM) was also launched. The new association is expected to have a huge mandate.
The new entity will be part of the training of new mosque imams. It will also broker the raising of funds from outside sources.
The blueprint for reforming Islamic affairs in France, which was requested by the Elysee and was prepared by El Karoui stirred up a hornet's nest inside CFCM. The council is especially concerned about raising funds as an issue. It considers it a sensitive matter.
The council cannot just accept the idea of putting funds coming from outside sources under legal control. Council leaders even consider this to be a humiliating matter for them, given the fact that the council has been operating for 15 years now and pretends to be in control.
The desire of the French state to turn cultural associations operated by the mosques into religious societies is proving to be a divisive issue. The French government wants to do this so that it can monitor the work of these entities and also control their finances.
Founder of the Muslim Association Marwan Muhammad made a tour of the mosques in France to conduct consultations with those who go to the mosques. French media reported these consultations. Muhammad enjoys support fm Islamic media in France. He also started drawing in influential figures in society.
The seven main mosque associations organized the French Muslims' conference on December 9 at the Arab World Institute in Paris. More than 400 people attended the conference. Several influential political figures were invited to the conference, along with French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner who delivered a speech at the event.
The presence of the minister reflected the presence of a desire on his part to find a common ground, following reports about the weakening of CFCM, against the backdrop of the creation of the Muslim Association of France.
Those attending the conference made a list of recommendations. Nonetheless, the following two of recommendations need to be brought under the spotlight:
- The need for a new dynamism to represent Muslims through the creation of Islamic faith councils in the different regions and involving religious leaders in these councils.
- Identification of Islamic practices is the sole responsibility of the representatives of the Islamic religion within the bounds of public order and the principles of the French Republic.
Discussions during the conference dwelt on the representation of CFCM, an issue that has caused a lot of criticism. This representation will be achieved by the establishment of councils in the different regions. Twenty percent of the boards of these councils must be made up of women. Islamic societies that do not run mosques will also participate in these councils. However, the main associations will have limited membership, less than 30 per cent.
Karoui's blueprint was approved. As a result, a chair will be dedicated to Islam at the University of Strasbourg. The chair will to give guidance to Muslims.
Many of the issues under debate now are expected to be settled following the elections in June. The elections will open the door for the presence of new members of the board of CFCM. The French government will wait to hear the new members and know whether they have a real desire for change.
The reality which will remain is that CFCM, which combines all the forces affiliated with Turkey, Morocco and Algeria, will continue to be an important institution for many years to come. The council runs the largest mosques in France after all.