French imams are set to be sent for training in Morocco where they will be instructed in the “values of openness and tolerance”, it was announced Saturday as French President François Hollande began a two-day visit to the north African country.
The training will take place at the Mohammed VI Institute in Rabat – an €18 million facility opened in March this year with the goal of educating Muslim scholars and Imams from all over the world.
A leading French Muslim group has welcomed sending the sending of Muslim Imams for training in Morocco, as a part of a training program that aims to promote values of “tolerance and openness.”
“Through this cooperation between France and Morocco, UMF hopes to meet the immediate needs of training Imams and chaplains, and prepare at the same time future teacher training institutions to be created on French territory,” said the Union of Mosques in France (UMF) head Mohammed Moussaoui in a statement cited by RFI news on Sunday, September 20.
The UMF leader was hailing the training deal that was signed between Paris and Rabat during French President Francois Hollande’s two-day visit this weekend to the North African country.
According to a joint declaration from the two countries, the training would promote “an Islam with the right balance” that conforms to “values of openness and tolerance” and “fully anchored in the values of the Republic and secularism.”
The training program will “demonstrate that Islam is a religion of peace in France,” French President François Hollande was quoted by Agence France Presse (AFP).
Nearly 50 French Imams will be trained at the institute each year, members of Hollande’s team said.
After the training, imams would return to France for further academic training on the role of religion in France and the religious rights.
“The UMF … is convinced that the training of imams with the necessary knowledge to promote a balanced interpretation of Islam must be at the heart of any prevention program in the fight against extremists,” Moussaoui said.
The training program, which was announced eight months after Charlie Hebdo attack, aims to boost the Imam’s role in combating radicalization.
Last February, France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that much of the focus will be on the training of Muslim preachers, in a bid to “encourage the emergence of a generation of Imams fully engaged in the Republic.”
About 40 foreign imams have been deported from the European country last June after facing accusations of preaching hate over the past three years.
“I want France and Morocco to enter a new phase of partnership,” Hollande said in Tangiers after receiving military honors and a traditional offering of dates and milk.
“We have a common will to act in Africa and also to fight against terrorism, which remains our top priority.”
Seeing the Charlie Hebdo attack as a betrayal of Islamic faith, leaders from Muslim countries and organizations joined worldwide condemnation of the attack, saying the attackers should not be associated with Islam.
The National Observatory Against Islamophobia said over 100 incidents have been reported to the police since the Charlie Hebdo attacks of January 7-9.
The observatory also noted that more than 222 separate acts of anti-Muslim behavior were recorded in the first month after the January attacks.
Reflecting growing anti-Muslim sentiments, the Islamophobic acts in France increased by 23.5% in the first six months of 2015, compared with the same period last year.
Physical assaults increased by 500 percent and verbal attacks by 100 percent during the initial months of 2015, adding that women were among the most vulnerable victims of Islamophobia.