‘License to preach’: Major French Muslim group calls for imams to have permits

Muslim men listen to a sermon delivered by Imam during Friday prayers at Abou Bakr Elfedik' mosque in the centre of Roubaix, northern France © Pascal Rossignol
Imams in France should have a permit to preach, similar to a “driving license”, so that they can promote a "tolerant and open Islam" and battle extremist propaganda, says the head of France's leading Muslim body.

The ‘certificate to preach’ idea was proposed by Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), a group that represents the interests of French Muslims. Kbibech added that the CFCM could issue the permits after it had tested an imam’s theological knowledge and adherence to the principles of France.

Muslim leaders would also sign an "Imams' Charter" in which they would agree to "respect the laws of the [French] Republic," he said, though didn’t specify if such a procedure should be obligatory across France.

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"The time for action has come. The Muslims of France will play their part," said Kbibech, also proposing to create a "religious council" which would be able to counter extremist ideology with theological arguments.

Jihadists would "never have the support of France's Muslims," Kbibech added.

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According to Mohammed Mraizika, secretary general of the Union of French Mosques, France “must fight Daesh [a derogatory term for IS/ISIS/ISIL] and the imams in mosques must work hard to show what happened [in Paris] has nothing to do with Islam.”

“Preachers of hate should be expelled and the mosques [where they preach] closed; France has the powers to do this," he told the Local.

Just under two weeks ago, Islamic State militants committed deadly attacks in the French capital which left 130 dead and over 300 injured.

France and Belgium, where many of the attackers came from, remain on high alert and the search for a number of the perpetrators involved in the attack continues.