Splits revealed among Muslim groups over President Emmanuel Macron’s charter

Three groups say they cannot work with proposed text

epa08945812 Paris Mosque Rector Chems-Eddine Hafiz (L), President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) Mohammed Moussaoui (C) and other CFCM representatives including Assani Fassassi (2-L) arrive at the Elysee Palace for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, France, 18 January 2021.  EPA/YOAN VALAT
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The head of France's main Muslim organisation criticised three Islamic groups for not signing up to President Emmanuel Macron's reforms aimed at eradicating extremism and sectarianism.

Mohammed Moussaoui, who supports Mr Macron's attempt to write a "charter of principles" that can serve as a reference for a new National Council of Imams, said the opposition risked being held responsible for national divisions.

The three groups are the Committee for Co-ordination of Turkish Muslims in France, Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation – both catering to citizens of Turkish origin – and the Faith and Practice movement.

"Through these repetitive actions, the groups ... all risk being held responsible for this situation of division," said Mr Moussaoui, the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, the main umbrella body for Muslim groups.

The refusal "is not likely to provide reassurance on the state of the representative bodies of the Muslim religion", he said.

But the three groups insisted they could not work with the proposed text.

"We believe that certain passages and formulations in the text submitted are likely to weaken the bonds of trust between the Muslims of France and the nation," they said in a joint statement.

"Furthermore, some statements are prejudicial to the honour of Muslims, with an accusatory and marginalising tone."

The charter is part of Mr Macron's intention to reduce influences he says encroach on France's strict secularism.

He has embarked on a crackdown against mosques and associations accused of extremism.

Mr Macron also plans to remove about 300 imams in France sent from Turkey, Morocco and Algeria.

The French government is pushing through legislation to battle pernicious radicalism, which would tighten rules on issues ranging from religious-based education to polygamy.

But the wide-ranging moves, along with the president's defence of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, angered many Muslims who believe Mr Macron is unfairly targeting an entire religion.

The president rejected the claims, saying the law is intended to protect the country's estimated four to five million Muslims, the largest number in any one country in Europe.