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France to cut Qatar funding of mosques in crackdown on islamic fundamentalism
The French government has announced a series of measures to clamp down on radical Islam being spread in mosques, and wants to cut financial support from countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Critics warn that before it does, it first needs to revise its 1905 law separating Church and State which discriminates against Muslims.
"If foreign countries are stepping in to fund mosques, it's because the French government won't" Karim Bouamrane, a socialist candidate in next month's local elections, told RFI on Saturday.
Bouamrane was reacting to plans by the French government to launch a cultural offensive against Salafist movements, held responsible for brainwashing the country's young Muslims.
These movements are accused of spreading islamic fundamentalism in mosques, with the financial backing and complicity of countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
"Muslims cannot run the risk of refusing cash from outside, because the French government won't allocate them funds to build mosques" Bouamrane added, before concluding that the country's 1905 law separating the Church and State needs to be updated.
The 1905 law, enshrining secularism as a national principle, bars the state from officially recognizing, funding or endorsing religious groups.
But it has come under increased scrutiny in connection with the integration of the Muslim community, many of whom arrived in France in the 1960s, after the 1905 law was passed.
However, Churches and synagogues for instance that were built before 1905, do receive funding and endorsement from the government, leading some Muslims to hit out at double standards.
"Yet the question to reform the law is difficult because France is a laic (secular) country," Gérard Prudhomme, deputy mayor of Seine-Saint Denis, a rough suburb of Paris, told RFI, "many people against anything which can change this thing."
However, there are growing calls for the state to fund Muslims' religious worship in some way, in a bid to plug funding from foreign countries, without compromising its values of secularism.
The place of Islam in French society is a hot button topic, and has been revived recently in the wake of the January 7 terror attacks.
Across the political spectrum, all the mainstream parties are mulling over how best to tackle the issue of Islam, without being accused of being divisive or acting out of political gain.
Speaking at a debate on Saturday, Mohammed Henniche, president of the Union of Muslim Associations in Seine Saint-Denis, a region northeast of Paris, said the best way to tackle radical Islam was to tackle islamophobia.