France's leading Muslim body said on Tuesday it would create a permit to preach for imams in a bid to root out extremists as well as a new religious body to fight back against extremist propaganda.
Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), said the country's imams should be given a certificate – "like a driving license" – that ensured they promoted a "tolerant and open Islam." The move comes 11 days after the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, amid increasing fears about homegrown extremists radicalized by rogue preachers. There were at least four Frenchmen among the gunmen who carried out the attacks, claimed by DAESH. The CFCM said it would hand out the permits by testing theological knowledge and adherence to French principles, and make preachers sign an "imams' charter" in which they agreed to "respect the laws of the Republic."
At this stage it does not appear that the permits will be compulsory – particularly as the CFCM, set up at the instigation of the authorities around a decade ago, does not represent every mosque and prayer hall in France, which is home to around five million Muslims. But Kbibech said that while withdrawing the permit from an imam might not stop him preaching, it would make mosques face up to their responsibilities concerning who they hire.
He also said the CFCM would set up a "religious council" to use theological arguments to defeat "every argument used by terrorist and extremist organizations to recruit our young people."
After the deadly Paris attacks, some Muslims in France feel the additional burden of having to justify and defend themselves and their community, even though they were among the dead and the hundreds of wounded in the Paris attacks. Islamophobic discourse has intensified worldwide, with Republican candidates in the U.S. claiming that Syrian refugees should not be admitted to the country and several European leaders saying Muslim refugees are a threat to Europe.