‘We can’t have Turkish laws on French ground’: Macron vows to fight foreign imams preaching ‘Islamist separatism’

Macron promised to “gradually” end the program allowing Muslim countries to send imams and teachers to France in order to teach languages and culture unsupervised by the state. Speaking at the town of Mulhouse near the German border, he said that the influence of foreign imams leads some to “separate themselves from the Republic and therefore not respect its laws.” 

The French leader singled out Turkey because, unlike Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, Ankara has not yet reached an agreement on the program with Paris. “Turkey today can make the choice to follow that path with us or not, but I won’t let any foreign country feed a cultural, religious or identity-related separatism on our Republic’s ground,” he said.

We cannot have Turkey’s laws on French ground. No way.

There are currently 151 Turkish imams in France, according to the Interior Ministry.

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Macron stated that he was “not trying to offend anyone, but will not be complacent” either. In order to fight “Islamist separatism,” he asked the French Muslim Council (CFCM) to improve the training of imams so they could “master” French laws.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that the practice of sending foreign imams to France will end in 2024.

Turkish parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop blasted Macron’s words as “a sign of primitive Islamophobia.” In a tweet, the senior lawmaker accused Paris of “disrupting peace in [Africa’s] Sahel and Libya and creating chaos in the Muslim world,” as well as supplying arms to insurgent Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who Ankara considers a “putschist.”

France participated in the 2011 US-led intervention in Libya, during which its longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed. The North African country has since been devastated by a protracted civil war. Paris and Ankara clashed recently after Turkey threw its support behind the UN-backed Tripoli-based government against Haftar’s forces that have been closing in on the city.

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Macron accused Turkey of undermining ceasefire in Libya. The officials in Tripoli, for their part, alleged that Paris has been supplying Haftar with weapons, after French-made missiles were discovered at a base belonging to the anti-government forces

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