President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a government strategy on combatting Islamic separatism in France, on 18 February. Speaking in the city of Mulhouse, Macron said that Paris would suspend programs on hosting imams from other countries and would control foreign financing of mosques and religious organizations.
The French President said that the measures are aimed at reducing foreign influence on Islamic culture in the country, particularly in schools and in places of worship, stressing that this is not a plan "against Islam".
Commenting on the proposed measures Macron said: "Moving away from an insular form of Islam is extremely important to help reduce foreign influences and ensure that each person respects the laws of the republic. We will train imams in France so that they will be able to master the French language and the rules of the republic. We need to know where the money is coming from, who is receiving it and what they are doing with it", said the French President.
French authorities have recently suspended the construction of the An Nour mosque in Mulhouse, the city where Macron unveiled the program on combatting Islamic separatism. According to building plans, the giant complex, which might be the largest mosque in France, will have schools, pools, shops and even a morgue. The construction, funded by a non-governmental organization in Qatar, covered half of the total cost – 14 million euros.
President Macron also announced that the government would cancel the ELCO language and culture program, under which 80,000 students a year received education in their native languages. They were taught by teachers sent from nine countries - Algeria, Croatia, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey. The program will be scrapped starting from next school year.
The President said that ELCO would be replaced with another program, which will guarantee that teachers speak French and teach courses that respect and are compatible with the laws of the French republic.
"I do not feel comfortable with the idea of having women and men in the schools of the republic that can teach without the National Education Department being able to exercise any control. Nor do we have control over the curriculum they teach. We cannot teach things that are not compatible with the laws of the republic or with history as we see it", the French President said.
France has suffered from a series of terrorist attacks in recent years. The shooting and bombing attacks that occurred in November of 2015 and claimed the lives of 130 people became the deadliest in France since the Second World War. One survivor of the attack took his life in 2017 and was recognized by authorities as the 131st victim.