French President Emmanuel Macron has given an ultimatum to the French Council of Muslim Faith as part of a broad clampdown on radical Islam.
He met the council leaders along with the interior minister earlier this week and asked them to agree to a “charter of republican values”. They have been given 15 days to work with the interior ministry.
The council has agreed to establish a National Council of Imams that will oversee the accreditation of the Imams. The charter will state Islam is a religion and not a political movement. It will also prohibit “foreign interference” among French Muslim communities.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned Macron’s “attempt to dictate the principles of the Islamic faith” to French Muslim leaders, and his demand that they “falsely state that Islam is an ‘apolitical religion'”.
Though Macron’s order is an attempt to tackle “extremism”, the American council denounced it as “hypocritical and dangerous” and warned American Muslims against travelling to France.
Macron’s decision comes in the backdrop of three recent terrorist attacks in the European country, including the beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty for showing cartoons of Prophet Mohammed to his students during a lesson on freedom of expression.
Macron ordered a tough crackdown on radical Islam following the incident. The country ordered the temporary closure of a mosque in a Paris suburb and also planned to expel 231 radicalised foreign nationals.
France’s decision was met by calls to boycott French goods in Muslim countries. Yet, France took a strong stand, saying it will guard the values of the republic.
In France, state secularism or laïcité is central to the national identity. Freedom of expression in schools and other public spaces is part of that, and curbing it to protect the feelings of a particular religion is seen as undermining national unity.
On Friday, Macron also accused Russia and Turkey of promoting anti-French sentiment in Africa by funding people who whip-up resentment against France through the media.
The French government has also drafted a bill to prevent radicalisation, as proposed by Macron earlier this year.
Under the bill, homeschooling has been restricted to discourage Madrasa-styled education. It also includes a provision for harsh punishment to those who intimidate public officials on legal grounds.
France has western Europe’s largest Muslim population.