THE Paris Grand Mosque and the city's Catholic university are teaming up to offer university education for imams to promote moderate Islam and help integrate foreign-born Muslim prayer leaders in France.
The privately-run Catholic Institute of Paris will launch a two-semester course on French politics, law and secularism for future imams studying Islamic theology at the Grand Mosque, with some being eligible for a degree.
France has tried for several years to boost imam training. The Sorbonne and public university in Paris declined to take on the task because they said it violated the legal separation of church and state.
The Catholic Institute courses will be given by the social and economic sciences faculty and not include any theology, the faculty dean Francois Mabille said.
"We have no vocation to train imams religiously, that is the responsibility of the Grand Mosque," Mabille said. "The students will take political sciences courses on democracy, human rights and the French republic."
Boubakeur said a meeting of about 110 students of the Grand Mosque's theology institute unanimously supported the plan to link up with the Catholic Institute.
The five million Muslims in France form the largest such minority in Europe and it has long argued it needed to train home-grown imams to integrate its second-largest religion and inoculate it against radical Islam coming from abroad.
There are about 1,200 imams in France and many lead prayers and offer spiritual and practical advice to the faithful with little or no formal training. Three-quarters of them are not French citizens and one-third do not speak French.
The government has long been concerned that these imams pick up radical ideas, sometimes on short courses in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, and spread them in France. Reuters
Friday, October 5, 2007
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