To combat extremism, France will issue licenses to imams

Preacher license and registration, please.
Preacher license and registration, please.
Image: Reuters/Vincent Kessler
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The devastating Paris attacks confirmed the country’s worst fears of the radicalization of its own citizens—at least five of the attackers have been identified as French nationals. Radical preachers have been blamed for misleading impressionable young kids. In an attempt monitor and root out extremism, France’s leading Muslim body will now hand out licenses to imams.

Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), announced the plans alongside French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Tuesday (Nov 24).  Imams in France should apply for a preaching permit—“like a driver’s license”—that will be handed out after their theological knowledge has been tested. The permits will certify (link in French) the “tolerance” and “openness” of imams.

Imams would also be asked to sign an “imams’ charter” to show their commitment to French values and to “respect the laws of the Republic.” “The time for action has come,” Kbibech said. “The Muslims of France will play their part.” But the CFCM did not clarify whether the permits would be compulsory.

The CFCM—a national elected body—is an important representative of the Muslim community to the government. Set up a decade ago, the body serves as an official liaison between Muslims and the government.

But not all Muslims welcome the announcement. Yasser Louati, a spokesman for the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, told al-Jazeera: “I don’t see any added value in this announcement, the people who did it [the Paris attacks] were not religious and were not radicalized in mosques.”

Even if it happens, will it be enough? One senior French Muslim recently denounced “pocket imams and mosques” who can reach young Muslims through their mobile phones (link French, paywall). They don’t need French licenses.