Paris, 15 Jumadil Awwal 1436/5 March 2015 (MINA) – In a bid to counter the rise of extremist ideas about Islam, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced a decision to double the number of university courses teaching Islam, promising not to issue any laws controlling the religion practiced by a large minority.
Education is central to stamping out the ignorance that is allowing “Islamist extremism and the far right feed off each other,” Valls announced in the eastern city of Strasbourg on Tuesday, International Business Times reported on March 4.
The PM added that the new courses will be funded by the state, On Islam quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
Valls said that the new course on Islamic studies and theology would be free, and that French republic values were the best means of combatting extremism. “The only response to the dangers that we face is the French Republic,” Valls said.
“This means the acceptance of the secular state, improving education, universities, understanding and intelligence.”
He added that the government will not push for new laws to define Islam, leaving this freely to the Muslim community. “But there will be no laws, decrees or government directives to define what Islam means,” Valls said.
“The French state will never attempt to take control of a religion.”
The new moves followed the terror attacks in Paris in January, in which 17 people were killed, including two Muslims, a journalist and a cop.
Seeing the Charlie Hebdo attack as a betrayal of Islamic faith, leaders from Muslim countries and organizations have joined worldwide condemnation of the attack, saying the attackers should not be associated with Islam.
Later on, French Muslims called for criminalizing insulting religions amid increasing anger around the Muslim world over Charlie Hebdo’s decision to publish new cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Using anti-Muslim sentiments, the far-right French Front National moved in recent polls to take the lead in the run-up to the French local elections.
“The rise of far-right populist politics, in Europe as well as in our own country, feeds directly off the rise of jihadism, terrorism and radical extremism,” Valls said in his speech, linking the rise of far-right and extremism.
“It is a situation that puts our democracy, our society and our capacity to live together in extreme jeopardy,” he added.
The comments followed an article in the New York Times in which Front National leader Marine Le Pen attacked the French political establishment for “20 years of mistakes on immigration and Europe”.
France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, and Valls said that he wanted more Imams and other Muslim religious figures, such as prison chaplains, who have trained abroad, to receive education in French republican values, and “undergo more training in France, to speak French fluently and to understand the concept of secularism”.
France is home to a Muslim minority of seven millions, Europe’s largest. Following last January’s attacks, the National Observatory Against Islamophobia said over one hundred incidents have been reported to the police since Charlie Hebdo attacks of January 7-9.
The rise in attacks over the last two weeks represents an increase of 110 percent over the whole of January 2014, the organization said.
Moreover, a Muslim father was stabbed to death in his own home in southern France this week by a neighbor who claimed to be avenging Charlie Hebdo. (T/P011/R04)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)