The “National Council of Imams” so hoped for by Emmanuel Macron is not about to see the light of day. The rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, Chems-Eddine Hafiz, announced on Monday that he was withdrawing from the project wanted by the Elysee and orchestrated by the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM). This project, announced on October 2 by the President of the Republic during his speech against “Separatism” in Les Mureaux, in Yvelines, aims to certify the training of imams and sever their ties with foreign influences. “I’ve decided […] to no longer participate in meetings which aim to implement the project of the National Council of Imams and to freeze all contacts with the entire Islamist component of the CFCM ”, wrote Chems-Eddine Hafiz in a press release, specifying that it is a decision “irrevocable”.
The Great Mosque of Paris withdraws from the project to create the National Council of Imams: pic.twitter.com/mm0JLGOHEN
– Great Mosque of Paris (@mosqueedeparis) December 28, 2020
Tensions around the “charter of values”
The reason for his anger? The “charter of values”, requested on November 18 by Emmanuel Macron from the CFCM. The association having for vocation to represent the Muslims of France was charged to write a text, “Within two weeks”, reaffirming its attachment to republican principles. The text had to be approved its nine components, including the Great Mosque of Paris, which is linked to Algeria. Six weeks later, no charter has yet been made public. For Chems-Eddine Hafiz, the “Islamist component within the CFCM, in particular that linked to foreign regimes hostile to France”, would have “Insidiously blocked the negotiations by calling into question almost systematically certain important passages”. According to the JDD, three federations have asked for the deletion of a passage distinguishing between “Islam” and “political Islam”: Faith and practice, a proselytizing and fundamentalist current Tabligh, Muslims of France and the CIMG, which promotes a Turkish nationalist Islam. Together, they refused that the text condemns “Wahhabism, Salafism, and the doctrine of the Muslim Brotherhood”.
“I believe that the representation of Muslims deserves something other than delaying tactics and dubious actions surrounded by actions that seek to divide the national community and to separate the French of the Muslim faith from society”, denounces Chems-Eddine Hafiz, who sees “Media manipulation” aiming to “Smear honor” Muslims.
For Haoues Seniguer, specialist in relations between Islam and politics and lecturer in political science at Sciences Po Lyon, the decision of the Great Mosque of Paris is revealing of the tensions that have undermined the CFCM almost since its creation in 2003 by Nicolas Sarkozy. “The Great Mosque of Paris takes up this project of the Council of Imams to assert its leadership and find an additional justification for the differences which separate it from the CFCM and to discredit it”, analyzes the researcher, who sees in it a stated desire of Chems-Eddine Hafiz to“Appear as the good student who respects the presidential word and denounces those who go against the power”.
One thing is certain: the withdrawal of the Great Mosque risks greatly delaying the implementation of the project, anticipates Haoues Seniguer. “This council of imams was already not very valuable, it will be even less today.”