08/01/2016, 12.52
FRANCE-ISLAM
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Muslims pray with Catholics. But Islamism is still present and of concern

by Catherine Field

Hundreds of Muslims attended Catholic Masses yesterday, in a sign of solidarity and mourning for the killing of Fr. Jacques Hamel, near Rouen. His community has been very active in interfaith dialogue. One of the young terrorists who killed him took part in the prayer in the mosque. Manuel Valls proposes education for imams, and the blocking of foreign financing for mosques.

Paris (AsiaNews) – Yesterday’s Masses in France were attended by many Muslims to express solidarity and condolences with Christians after the brutal murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel by two young local jihadists in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, close to Rouen.

More than 100 Muslims were present among the 2 thousand faithful who filled the cathedral of Rouen. The Archbishop, Msgr. Dominique Lebrun, told them: "I thank you on behalf of all Christians. In this way you are affirming that you reject death and violence in the name of God”.

In Nice, the chief imam Otaman Aissaoui led a delegation to the Catholic mass. In this city, a jihadist drove a truck into the crowd on Bastille Day, killing 84 people and wounding 435, many of whom were also Muslims. Otaman said that "being united is a response to acts of horror and barbarism”.

Similar gesturestook place in Bordeaux, Marseille, Paris, etc. ... As well as in many Italian cities. Muslims have responded to an appeal launched by the Council of French Muslims, to show "solidarity and sympathy" to the Christians, after the slaughter of the priest.

Yesterday I was at Notre Dame de Paris; three days ago, last Friday, the cathedral of Rouen. I must say that all these scenes of encounter between Christians and Muslims warm the heart. But they are not enough.

My impression is that this outpouring of inter-faith grieving after the attack is based more on the needs for fraternity after all the horrors that France experienced last month.

 Of course, the scenes at the mosque and the Friday sermon in Saint Etienne du Rouvray on Friday and the Saturday and Sunday catholic services were a relief.  But to be honest, Saint Etienne already had a very active inter-faith dialogue group.  The relations in that town between the moslem and catholic communities were very strong.  The catholic church even gave them the land on which to build their mosque.  Similarly, in Rouen.  There has been some very excellent grassroots work between the communities. Still, at least one of the two young terrorists would attend the local mosque prayer.

All this coming together is between people who already have a kindred spirit.  The marginalised youths will still be marginalised; the lure of 'Daesh' looms large; the people who carry out these attacks are all young, they act on instructions they receive via internet ... And life in French society seems to favor this type of thing.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has suggested more training for imams.  Well, that already exists.  It was set up by the Institute Catholique de Paris back in 2008 to teach about laicité, French customs and to make sure imams spoke French.  Because of strict laws on laicité, the Institute Catholique is the only higher education faculty allowed to teach religion. The take-up though hasn't been that great, less than 100 have received the training.  Even back in 2008 it was felt there needed to be more supervision of imams, particularly concerning their civil education and ensuring they spoke French.   The problem was that the various muslim organisations didn't have any confidence in the Institute Catholique to do a 'fair' job.  There is also a suggestion from Valls that foreign funding of mosques be forbidden. And that's also an old demand.

To this all must be added the security failures.  That has been a constant in all the attacks in France.  Nicolas Sarkozy abolished the neighbourhood police units and put the emphasis on video surveillance and tough policing at a national level.  So there are no links at all between say local (municipal) police and young kids on housing estates or even local mosques. 

If to all this is added the unemployment among young people and the sense that France is perhaps too stridently secular, accused of atheism by the fundamentalists, it is clear that there is not much hope to solve soon the problems of jihadism.

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