Jean-Pierre Chevènement: ‘The answer to Salafi theology is to bring cultured Islam to the fore’

“The European approach must be to share our experiences, and to find ways of bringing cultured Islam to the fore. For it is my belief that Salafi theology, which has the potential to create the fertile soil from which the temptation to commit terrorist acts may spring, can be countered through far more sophisticated training,” said Jean-Pierre Chevènement, head of the Foundation for Islam in France, speaking today in Paris at a hearing on the political consequences of foreign funding of Islam in Europe.

“Every European country has its own history and its own rules, but we can find common ground in order to do what seems to me essential, namely training for imams. To this end, we could establish a faculty of Muslim theology in Strasbourg, where, under the Concordat, the strict separation between church and state does not apply, in co-operation with foreign institutions, either Swiss or German,” added Mr Chevènement.

“Secularism is a concept which, although often misunderstood, is deeply rooted in our history, the aim being that citizens should be able to discuss matters which concern them and the common good in a way that relies on reason rather than dogma. Secularism, if I had to define it, is similar to citizenship,” he said.

Doris Fiala, who is preparing a report on the subject, presented her initial observations following a recent working visit to Austria and also the questionnaire which will serve as a basis for a comparative study of systems of foreign funding of Islam in Europe, and which was sent to Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Ms Fiala also announced an upcoming visit to the United Kingdom.

“I hope my report will help to separate the fantasy, groundless fears or even Islamophobia about foreign funding of Islam in Europe from the reality. Drawing on solutions adopted in various European countries, I will make some suggestions for improving the transparency of funding. For the fact is that both religious freedom and the right to privacy and anonymity need to be considered and, in this particular case, there is no reason why that which is accorded to followers of other religious faiths should not be accorded to Muslims,” she concluded.