Amir Taheri points out some, but by no means all or even the most important of the problems with the ongoing and ever-quixotic French project to build a French Islam, shorn, presumably, of un-French elements incompatible with French secularism. From Arab News via the Daily Times of Pakistan, with thanks to Anja:
Nicholas Sarkozy is a man in a hurry. France’s Interior Minister knows that he has less than five years in which to gain enough stature to seek the presidency after the incumbent, Jacques Chirac retires. Not surprisingly, whatever Sarkozy has done since he moved to Place Bueavais, the Parisian headquarters of the Interior Ministry has been marked by that timetable.
Thus, it is in a great hurry that Sarkozy wants to create what he describes as ” a French church of Islam.” Initially launched in the early 1980s, the project has been taken up, and dropped, by six successive ministers from both left and right. In 1987, one such minister, Charles Pasqua, described Islam as France’s “No. 1 problem.” The project aims at creating an officially recognized authority capable of representing France’s Muslims. Similar authorities exist for Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian communities as well as Jews. The so-called “French church of Islam” would decide who should attend official functions, and who should be consulted on matters of faith as far as the Muslim community is concerned.
Back in the 1980s this writer was invited by Pasqua to offer a view on the project. The response given at that time was that the proposed project would either prove impossible to apply or, if applied, could divide the Muslim community in France, and encourage radical fundamentalists.
There is no reason to hold a different view today.
Sarkozy, like his predecessors, fails to understand the specific nature of Islam as a religion.
Almost all of France’s Catholics, Protestant and Orthodox inhabitants are citizens of the French Republic who have grown up in a culture based on a separation of church and state. They are distinguished from other French citizens only by faith.
France’s Jewish community is also distinct because Judaism encompasses religious, ethnic, and, to some extent, cultural identities. More importantly, the Jews have no ambition of converting others to their faith.
Islam is different. To start with, only half of the estimated 5.2 million Muslims who live in France are French citizens. And even many of those who do have French citizenship insist on keeping their previous Islamic nationality. (That is especially the case with the North Africans.) Clear ethnic, linguistic and cultural identities mark out most of France’s Muslims from the rest of society.
More importantly, the Muslims who live in France are divided into countless religious faiths and persuasions. There are, of course, all the usual Sunni and Shiite variations. But there are also numerous Sufi movements, especially among those of Turkish and Kurdish background. According to recent studies, France’s Muslims come from 53 different countries, speak 21 different languages, and represent numerous Asian, Middle Eastern, African and European cultures.
All these groups and movements would deeply resent any attempt by the French government to impose a single authority on them.
Taheri gets all the way to the most important point and then doesn’t make it. He correctly pointed out that “almost all of France’s Catholics, Protestant and Orthodox inhabitants are citizens of the French Republic who have grown up in a culture based on a separation of church and state.” And he was also correct in saying that “Islam is different.” But he doesn’t explain why Islam is different; it isn’t so much because it lacks organizational unity, which is the theme he expands upon here. Rather, it is because it is NOT a culture based on a separation of mosque and state.
Islam has always had a political character, and that “” not racism, or underclass resentment, or anything else “” is why it is France’s Number One Problem. The French have allowed millions of people to enter their country who do not accept its basic premises. Now, either those people must abandon their view, or those premises must change. Which one do you think is more likely to happen?