France to double university courses on Islam

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French PM said that improving home-grown Islamic education was essential to defeat the ignorance that makes “Islamist extremism and the far right feed off each other.”

IRNA – French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has announced that the state would finance double the number of university courses on Islam in a bid to stop “the influence of foreign funding of training of French imams.”

In a speech in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, Valls said that improving home-grown Islamic education was essential to defeat the ignorance that makes “Islamist extremism and the far right feed off each other.”

 

His speech follows January’s Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks and comes amid concern about the influence of radical foreign imams on Muslims in France, which has Western Europe’s biggest Muslim community, reports France 24.

 

The Socialist government is also worried about the increasing popularity of the anti-immigration and anti-Europe National Front party, which is coming top of the polls ahead of regional elections due to take place later this month.

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“The rise of far-right populist politics, in Europe as well as in our own country, feeds directly off the rise of terrorism and radical extremism,” he said. “It is a situation that puts our democracy, our society and our capacity to live together in extreme jeopardy.”

 

There are currently six universities in France offering courses in Islamic studies and theology. Valls said he wanted to double that number to 12 and that the courses would be free.

 

“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.”

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