Abdallah Zekri discussed the “Muslim question” in France during a recent interview with El Watan. Below are excerpts from the conversation:
El Watan: It really seemed like the question of Islam was on many headlines this year.
Abdallah Zekri: It doesn’t stop, I was asked by journalists to comment on the election of Laurent Wauquiez to head the Républicains party. I responded that within his own party he has been criticized for his radical comments and that many have jumped ship. We, in any case, don’t have confidence in someone who has based his campaign on identity, in a similar manner to his former boss, Nicolas Sarkozy.
EW: The political climate is, in certain respects, relatively calm, and yet certain persons invoke incendiary rhetoric. What do you think about this?
AZ: They will continue. Whether it’s Wauquiez, Le Pen, or the former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who surprised everyone. While he was Interior Minister we had several meetings and he has now completely changed direction. He spends his time speaking about laïcité and accuses Islam of all types of wrongs, it’s quite serious, because that encourages hate.
EW: In your opinion, is Islam used as a political stepping stool?
AZ: A bit. Why does President Macron want a round table with religious leaders? It’s to clarify things. It’s too much. We read the papers, we speak about laïcité, we turn on the radio, it’s all the same, we watch television…It’s aimed at Muslims, but we Muslims, we respect laïcité.
EW: What’s your assessment of 2017?
AZ: We could speak about several subjects. There’s a slight improvement in anti-Muslim acts. They’ve decreased, due to the fact that the State has used financial means to protect places of worship with video surveillance. There was also the Sentinelles Operation, which offered protection for mosques.
Moreover, there were not, thankfully, attacks that, each time, awaken the racists who believe that Muslims are behind every attack. When there was a bomb in the Sinai mosque with 305 Muslim deaths we did not hear these reactions. And when there are other types of attacks, others reproach us for not reacting. We are neither responsible nor guilty for what happens.”
EW: 2017 was marked by a leadership succession for the CFCM and the launch of the Foundation for French Islam. Are things on the right track?
AZ: The change in CFCM leadership is due to the rotating presidency. We now have a Turkish president Ahmet Ogras, before him Anouar Kbibech who is Moroccan, and before him Dalil Boubaker, the Algerian. Each led in his own way. In order for the CFCM to advance there must be a discussion of the collegiate leadership.
Each president must work with a team to succeed. Currently, Ahmed Ogras is doing his apprenticeship and there are difficulties with communication. No one can work alone.
Regarding the Foundation for French Islam, what saddens me is that the Foundation is led by Chevènement, a non-Muslim, while no other foundation is run by a non-Jew or a non-Christian. I’m not questioning his competency or what he is doing. I see the reality and Muslims are not happy that a non-Muslim is at the head of this institution.