French President Emmanuel Macron already has signed into law anti-terror legislation that gives security services the authority to shut down places of worship if they are fostering extremism.
And French police can search terrorist suspects’ homes and demand identity documents of suspects at borders. The moves were prompted by the 2015 terrorist attacks by Muslims that killed 130 in Paris.
Now Macron wants to move much further down a road that wouldn’t be permitted in the United States because of civil-rights protections in the Constitution. The French president wants to tax Muslim food, reform an influential Muslim council and restrict what other countries can do to finance mosques or train imams in France.
Kern noted Macron’s plan is vague and short on details “but appears to involve three broad pillars: determining who will represent Muslims in France; delineating how Islam in France will be financed; and defining how imams in France will be trained.”
He said the plan includes reformation of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, which acts as a go-between for Muslims and the state.
It represents 1,500 mosques.
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The council’s provision for a rotating presidency, Macron has charged, allows interference in France by foreigners, mainly from Algeria, Morocco and Turkey, which exercise “consular Islam” through the council.
“It is time to bring in a new generation,” said Hakim el-Karoui, a French-Tunisian expert on Islam who is advising Macron on the reforms, according to Kern. “We have seen 15 years of debate to defend the interests of foreign states.”
Macron also wants to set up a “grand imam of France” with the “moral authority” to represent Islam, the report said.
His plan to reduce external influence “would restrict foreign governments or entities from funding Muslim places of worship and training imams in France. Hundreds of French mosques are being financed by countries in the North African Maghreb and Persian Gulf,” Kern wrote.
“The new plan would also attempt to illuminate the financial dealings of mosques by bringing them under the jurisdiction of a French law that regulates cultural associations. French mosques currently adhere to a law that regulates non-profit associations, which allows for more opaque bookkeeping.”
There also is a plan for a “so-called Halal Tax, a sales tax on halal products to finance Islam in France,” the report said.
Kern said the overall objective of Macron’s plan is “to ensure that French law takes precedence over Islamic law for Muslims living in the country.”
Macron said in a recent interview: “We are working on the structuring of Islam in France and also on how to explain it. My goal is to rediscover what lies at the heart of secularism – the possibility of being able to believe as well as not to believe – in order to preserve national cohesion and the possibility of having free religious conscience.”
He said he’s seeking advice from various religious leaders.
“I will never ask any French citizen to be moderate in his religion or to believe moderately in his God. That would not make much sense. But I will ask everyone, constantly, to absolutely respect all the rules of the republic,” he said.