At the annual break-fast meal for Ramadan (Iftar) organized by the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) in Paris on Tuesday evening, the Minister of the Interior, Gerard Collomb, called on Muslims leaders to act. In a speech of about fifteen minutes, he wanted to “reawaken momentum.”
“In the coming weeks, we would like to see a major dialogue in each department,” he said. “It’s time to start from the bottom, from the ground, so we can bring together different proposals, which the President of the Republic would be able to use to take strong initiative,” Without which, however, the “government imposes its views.”
With a theme of brotherhood and Judeo-Muslim relations, the dinner began with the broadcast of a video entitled “Jews and Muslims, a family story”, covering fourteen centuries of “interfaith cooperation”. All in a slightly tense atmosphere. The absence of the President Macron, present in 2017, was poorly received by the organizers and some participants, who saw it as a “boycott”. While the announced absence of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s speech prompted “incomprehension.”
Arriving a little before 23:15, Philippe improvised a few words after going around to the tables – “We have great challenges to overcome together, not sure it’s worth the detail as they are obvious” – before concluding with a “Thank you for your invitation, and off to work!”.
“Macron did not come because he has nothing to say, nothing to announce”, said a guest, who wished to remain anonymous. The presidential announcements were indeed planned for the first half of the year, and then were postponed to the second.
Charged since 2003 with representing Islam, the CFCM is often considered ineffective. Paralyzed by internal wars between federations, it is also criticized for its lack of representativeness and marked by undue interference by the French state and the countries of origin (Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, etc). “I know the CFCM is not perfect,” said President Ahmet Ogras on Tuesday night. “It is not a miracle solution. However, it’s an innovative institution. With the local networks, all elected officials now have interlocutors… This is a significant achievement.”
Several guests pointed to a “problem” that they consider “serious”: being out of synch with younger generations. “None of the leaders were born here!,” someone said. “They do not understand the serious reality of what France is.”
It has been two months since the institution announced its intention to conduct a major survey of local worshipers and, more broadly, Muslims. The former director of the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), activist Marwan Muhammad, did not wait: in early May he launched a “consultation of Muslims” online, in order to “define the fundamentals of what could be the organization of Muslim communities,” an initiative to which no one referred during Iftar.
Combating Islamism, training imams, funding places of worship, structuring representative bodies … “Some topics have advanced over the year but we still have a long way to go,” insisted the Minister of the Interior. “Among the advances, radicalization prevention… But it’s up to you to combat this on theological terrain, which only you can invest in… It is up to the Muslims of France to take charge of these issues in the long term.” “But the state can not lose interest,” he concluded.