Nectar Trust ramps up funds for Islamic schools in France despite Macron's policies

Arm of Qatar Charity investing £12m in nine centres across Europe

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks after a meeting with leaders of the G5 Sahel, via visio-conference, in Paris, on February 16, 2021. Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno said on February 15, 2021, he would send 1,200 soldiers to the flashpoint "three border" zone between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso as part of the G5 Sahel group's fight against jihadists in the region. Defence ministers from the regional group, which also includes Mauritania, visited the troops slated for the deployment at their current posting in the Nigerien city of N'Guigmi, near the Chadian border, state television in Chad showed. / AFP / POOL / Francois Mori
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A British-based charity is on track to spend more than £12 million ($17m) on creating nine Islamic institutions across Europe despite growing legal obstacles to foreign funding.

The Nectar Trust, which is the UK arm of Qatar Charity, has funded the educational establishments in France, Italy, Germany and Belgium to help strengthen community cohesion.

But its work in France is facing difficulties following President Emmanuel Macron’s new law on social cohesion that includes stringent rules on foreign organisations investing in Islamic establishments.

Mr Macron launched his bill last year in Mulhouse, the same town as the site of the Nectar Trust’s largest project involving the construction of a multipurpose religious centre.

The Association Amal will house a prayer hall, sporting and community facilities.

“This is the largest grant awarded by the Nectar Trust to part-fund the building of an iconic multipurpose centre,” its latest accounts said.

“The project will be built on an area of 4,600 square metres and consists of a school, sports and health facilities, a multicultural hall for prayers and other activities and an office.”

Mr Macron is seeking to combat "foreign interference" in how Islam is practised and the organisation of its religious institutions.
"A problem arises when, in the name of religion, some want to separate themselves from the republic and therefore not respect its laws," he said.

He claims the new bill will counter Islamist extremism in France by giving the government more authority over the schooling of children, the financing of mosques and the training of imams.
"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 said.

Earlier this month, France's upper house added a number of amendments to the bill, including banning the hijab for under-18s in public.

The Nectar Trust has spent more than £5.3m on building and improving five educational buildings in France, its latest accounts ending March 2020 said.

It is building a school for 300 pupils at the Centre of Musulman De Marseille and has purchased land in Thonon to expand the Association Musulman du Chablais.

The charity is creating student accommodation for 26 people at the Fonds De Dotation, Institute European des Sciences Humanitarian in Paris and is upgrading the student accommodation and campus at IESH’s establishment in Chateau Chinon.

In January, former students of IESH launched an urgent crowdfunding appeal to raise £25,000 to stop it being closed after it lost vital funding due to the pandemic.

The IESH publishes fatwas following the guidance of the European Council on Fatwa and Research (ECFR).

The ECFR's former president Yusuf Al Qaradawi is banned from the UK and is believed to be the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Across Europe, the Nectar Trust is spending £5.5m on educational support and £1.2m on community developments.

It is creating three multipurpose educational centres in Italy to support minority communities and refugees in Verona, Rome and Cantabria. In Germany, it is funding the Arabisch Deutscher Kul Turerein community centre in Frankfurt, and in Belgium, the Maison Du Dialogue community centre is being created for marriage ceremonies, youth sporting activities, prayer areas, shops and classrooms for teaching Arabic.

Last year, France fast-tracked its anti-separatism bill following the murder of schoolteacher Samuel Paty by an extremist.

It was given added impetus last month when a female police employee was stabbed to death at a police station by a Tunisian man who had watched extremist videos but was not known to the intelligence services.