Fouad Saanadi, president of the Regional Muslim Council of Aquitane, discusses French government’s territorial reform spoke with Fouad Saanadi, president of the Regional Muslim Council of Aquitaine and founding member of the Center for Action and Prevention Against Radicalization of Individuals (CAPRI). He discussed his opinions on the government’s recent territorial reform initiative and his work in the region. The Interior Ministry has launched its Territorial Reform of Islam in France until September 15. The initiative is a process of consultations and meetings at the departmental level involving Muslim leaders. Its goal is to address issues “including the institutional representation of Islam in France, leadership of the places of worship, financing of the faith and the formation of religious ministers.”
Below is an excerpt of the interview.
“We formulated the idea of territorial reform with Tareq Oubrou. Many questions remain. The government is organizing these territorial bases for French Islam. What are they talking about, exactly? Is it a reform of faith or culture? For our part, in the Bordelais region, we have already been advocating for a certain discussion of Islam that can be a part of a reform that is not only administrative. If the goal of this consultation is not to bring reform, it doesn’t make much sense. The goal must be to reorganize Islam, to structure it….The question is thus, what Islam are we talking about? We are waiting for state support regarding the organization of the Muslim faith. It’s a good thing that these conferences will take part by territory, this has not been the case up until now. It will bring more representation and diversity…”
“Questions such as the financing of worship, the training of imams and all measures to prevent radical discourse will be discussed. But it must be said that the prevailing tension and the fact that Islam does not have a good reputation…[makes] it very difficult, in this situation, to negotiate with local elected officials about the question of Islam’s public visibility.”
“The solution for financing goes through an arrangement of public and private funding. This means having access to chaplaincy funding. We should consider a package that includes the duties of a full-time imam and chaplain with a time slot at the mosque, another in the prisons and one in the hospitals. For private funding, there are donations. Muslims are generous and mosques are functioning thanks to donations. Protestants work in this way by combining chaplaincy and diaconate, Protestant social service. Several set ups make it possible to avoid touching the laic balance.”
“In terms of general prevention against extremism, we are far behind in terms of proposals. Mosques have a role to play in the discourse and vision of Islam they propose… The speeches are neither formulated in a correct French, nor are they in tune with contextual realities or modernity. There is therefore a big delay in catching up on this issue.”
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