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ANALYSIS: Who is the CFCM? How Foreign and Transnational Actors are Influencing Islam in France

November 9th, 2020 12:45

In Octo­ber, French Pres­i­dent Emmanuel Macron announced plans to tack­le what he called “Islam­ic sep­a­ratism.” Accord­ing to the BBC:

Speak­ing out­side Paris on Fri­day, Mr Macron said “Islamist sep­a­ratism” was a dan­ger to France because it held its own laws above all oth­ers and “often results in the cre­ation of a counter-soci­ety”. He said this form of sec­tar­i­an­ism often trans­lat­ed into chil­dren being kept out of school, and the use of sport­ing, cul­tur­al and oth­er com­mu­ni­ty activ­i­ties as a “pre­text to teach prin­ci­ples that do not con­form to the laws of the repub­lic”. […] The mea­sures announced by the pres­i­dent will form leg­is­la­tion that will go to par­lia­ment before the end of the year. They include:

  • stricter mon­i­tor­ing of sports organ­i­sa­tions and oth­er asso­ci­a­tions so that they do not  become a front for Islamist teaching
  • an end to the sys­tem of imams being sent to France from abroad
  • improved over­sight of the financ­ing of mosques
  • home-school­ing restricted

Much of Macron’s plan focused on lim­it­ing for­eign influ­ence and train­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of French imams. It will be dif­fi­cult to imple­ment, how­ev­er, because France’s pol­i­cy of mil­i­tant sec­u­lar­ism, laïc­ité, explic­it­ly bars the state from inter­fer­ing with pri­vate reli­gious affairs. Thus, France would have to rely on the French Coun­cil of the Mus­lim Faith to imple­ment the new laws, an Islam­ic umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tion that itself has a prob­lem­at­ic rela­tion­ship to for­eign influ­ence actors. Accord­ing to an arti­cle in For­eign Policy:

Because the state itself can’t cer­ti­fy imams, for exam­ple, Macron would like­ly empow­er the French Coun­cil of the Mus­lim Faith (CFCM)—created by then-Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Nico­las Sarkozy in 2003—to do so. But empow­er­ing the CFCM would go against Macron’s stat­ed objec­tive of cre­at­ing a French Islam in the place of a for­eign-influ­enced one. Only a third of French Mus­lims have even heard of the CFCM, accord­ing to a 2016 sur­vey; those who have crit­i­cize its opaque lead­er­ship struc­ture and close ties to for­eign powers.

The French Coun­cil of the Mus­lim Faith (Con­seil Français Du Culte Musul­man, CFCM) is an umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tion com­pris­ing mem­bers from dif­fer­ent Islam­ic fed­er­a­tions, many of which are tied to for­eign and transna­tion­al influ­ence actors, notably Moroc­co, Alge­ria, and Turkey, as well as the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and the Tab­ligh move­ment. Accord­ing to its statute, the 2019–2025 CFCM board includes rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the fol­low­ing organizations:

1 rep­re­sen­ta­tive from each Great Mosque

9 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the FNGMP, the RMF, and the MF (ex UOIF)

6 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the CCMTF

4 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the CIMG

3 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the FFAIACA

2 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Faith and Prac­tice (“Foi et Pra­tique”) and Tabligh

  • FNGMP stands for “Fédéra­tion nationale de la Grande Mosquée de Paris” (Nation­al Fed­er­a­tion of the Great Mosque of Paris) and com­pris­es around 100 mosques, includ­ing France’s largest mosque in Paris. France has assigned the mosque to Alge­ria in 1957, which finances it with two mil­lion Euros a year and usu­al­ly nom­i­nates the direc­tor of the mosque.
  • RMF stands for “Rassem­ble­ment des musul­mans de France” (Assem­bly of Mus­lims in France) and was found­ed in 2006. Accord­ing to French Islam expert Bernard Godard, the RMF is con­sid­ered close to Moroc­co, and many mem­bers are sym­pa­thet­ic to the Moroc­can Islamist par­ty PJD, the Moroc­can branch of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, which cur­rent­ly rules the coun­try. French media typ­i­cal­ly describes the RMF as a “pro-Moroc­can” organization.
  • MF (ex UOIF) stands for “Musul­mans de France” (French Mus­lims), which until 2018 oper­at­ed under the name Union of Islam­ic Orga­ni­za­tions of France (UOIF). As the French mem­ber orga­ni­za­tion of the Fed­er­a­tion of Islam­ic Orga­ni­za­tions in Europe (FIOE), the MF/UOIF essen­tial­ly rep­re­sents the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in France. Accord­ing to French media, the MF/UOIF has received sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from Qatar, a major backer of the Glob­al Mus­lim Brotherhood.
  • CCMTF stands for “Comité de coor­di­na­tion des musul­mans turcs de France” (Coor­di­na­tion Com­mit­tee of Turk­ish Mus­lims in France) and is con­sid­ered close to Turkey and its cur­rent lead­er­ship under the Islamist AKP. For­mer CCMTF Pres­i­dent Ahmed Ogras is a for­mer Pres­i­dent of the French chap­ter of the Inter­na­tion­al Union of Democ­rats (UID, for­mer­ly UETD), the main lob­by orga­ni­za­tion of the AKP in Europe.
  • CIMG stands for “Con­fédéra­tion Islamique Mil­lî Görüş France” and is the French branch of Mil­li Görüs, a transna­tion­al Islamist net­work that orig­i­nat­ed from Turkey and is close to Turkey’s AKP. French media has por­trayed the CIMG as “close to the Turk­ish Mus­lim Broth­er­hood” and a pro­po­nent of an anti-West­ern nation­al­ist Islam. Accord­ing to a French polit­i­cal sci­en­tist, the CIMG is “almost in the ser­vice of a for­eign power.”
  • FFAIACA stands for “Fédéra­tion Nationale des Asso­ci­a­tions Islamiques d’Afrique, des Comores et des Antilles” (Nation­al Fed­er­a­tion of Islam­ic Asso­ci­a­tions of Africa, the Comoros and the Antilles) and is the offi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of African Muslims.
  • Final­ly, the Tab­ligh (and its off­shoot “Foi et Pra­tique”) is a transna­tion­al Islamist move­ment that orig­i­nat­ed in south­east Asia and is active in France since the 1960s. Sau­di Ara­bia and Pak­istan have report­ed­ly financed Tab­ligh mosques in France.

A 2018 study on Islam­ic insti­tu­tions in France con­clud­ed that Islamists have an “intel­lec­tu­al monop­oly” over pub­lic debate among Mus­lims in France, and the state should inter­vene to lim­it for­eign influ­ence over worshippers.