Islam of France: is the CFCM dead?

Islam of France is the CFCM dead

The French Council of the Muslim Worship could well disappear. This institution, supposed to represent the Muslims of France, has been the main interlocutor of the government since 2003. But his internal dissensions this time seem insurmountable, to the point that the French authorities are already looking for his successor.

The CFCM has suffered since its creation from its lack of legitimacy. The eight federations that make it up manage, for the most part, places of worship on French soil. According to the last elected president of the CFCM, Mohammad Moussaoui, they currently only represent a third of the approximately 3,000 mosques in France. Mohamed Moussaoui recognizes this himself: “ It is time to move on. In its format, the CFCM is not viable “.

The change could take place at the end of his mandate, this Wednesday, January 19. According to an agreement made within the CFCM in 2020, it is the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, Chems Eddine Hafiz who should succeed him. But the federation he leads slammed the door of the institution’s office last March, like three other federations. In recent days, tensions have reached their climax over an exchange of press releases where the break was clearly consumed.

To try to find a way out, a general meeting should be organized on February 19, with the sole agenda being the vote on whether or not to dissolve the CFCM.

Organizing Islam in France: a challenge

Recent press releases, published in particular by the Great Mosque of Paris, bring to light the rivalries between federations which have been eating away at the CFCM for years. They oppose more particularly that of Mohamed Moussaoui, the Franco-Moroccan, and that of Chems Eddine Hafiz, the Franco-Algerian. Their origins are not trivial; the links between the federations and the countries of origin are very strong and largely explain the power struggles. There are also links within the CFCM with Turkey, Egypt, Mayotte and the Comoros. Mohamed Moussaoui says he is frustrated at not having succeeded in overcoming this tendency towards consular Islam. This is also why he believes that the CFCM no longer needs to be in the state.

Also to listen: France and the Muslim world, the great misunderstanding?

For the president of one of the federations, who prefers to reserve an official word for later, the explanation for the failure of the CFCM lies elsewhere. He believes that the members of the CFCM are torn above all over doctrine. He denounces the presence of federations relaying a radical Islam, “ which has no place in France “. According to him, Mohamed Moussaoui should have dismissed them. For this CFCM executive, it was therefore not surprising that the signing of a charter for Islam in France, desired by the government, caused such an earthquake and revealed the positions within the institution.

In January 2021, as Parliament considers what will become the law against separatism, the government asks the CFCM federations to adhere to a charter which reaffirms the compatibility of Islam with the Republic. The signatories undertake to respect secularism, to condemn anti-Semitism, homophobia and misogyny, but also to reject political Islam and any foreign interference in places of worship. Three federations refuse to initial the text, two close to Turkey and another defending a rigorous Islam. In response, four other federations, including the Grand Mosque of Paris, decided to resign from the CFCM. The institution will surely never recover.

The government is looking for a new interlocutor

The failure of the CFCM had been written about for months. The government took the lead by launching the Forum de l’islam de France (Forif) in early 2021. Throughout the year, thanks to the local foundations of Islam, the prefects identified local actors to whom they offered to participate in reflection workshops on priority subjects, in the eyes of the French authorities; the training of imams, the fight against anti-Muslim acts or even obscurantism.

The official launch of Forif should take place at the beginning of February, but the French government will not be able to go further in its initiative. By virtue of the law separating religions and the State, he cannot interfere further in the organization of a religious cult.

► Also to listen: What representation for Muslims in France?