France: first Muslim campus to be built in Strasbourg

Funded by Turkey to train future imams

08 October, 10:38

    Muslim children learn to read the holy Koran Muslim children learn to read the holy Koran

    (ANSAmed) - PARIS - The first French-Turkish Muslim campus in France will be built in Strasbourg's outskirts.

    The project, fully funded by Turkey, will train France's future imams with courses and exams exclusively in Arabic. There are currently only two private institutes in France for the training of imams: one school created by Paris's Grand Mosque and one set up by the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UOIF). In addition to the theology faculty and its five-year course of studies, there will also be a Muslim secondary school based on the Turkish imam hatip, as well as internships. ''The secondary school will be a nursery ground for recruiting future students of theology. It will become the standard for Islam in France and Europe,'' Libération was told by Saban Kiper, socialist councilor in the Strasbourg municipality. There will be at least six hours per week of courses on religion. Though the campus is still under construction, several different structures were purchased in 2010 and are currently undergoing renovation. One room will be set aside for prayer.

    Libération cites data showing that Turkey is investing 15 million euros in ''the most ambitious project ever for France's Muslim community of Turkish origins'. The aim is to train the younger generation of French Muslims - born and raised in France - in the work of an imam, under the supervision of Diyanet, the Turkish religious affairs service. The newspaper states that this is a way for the Turkish government to ''preserve its influence over its diaspora''. The training of imams has been under discussion in France - where the largest Muslim community in Europe lives, and where the deepest divides between different generations of Muslims exist - for the past twenty years. Only a third of imams receive a salary, while the other rely on donations from mosque-goers and are volunteers. ''While the private institutes in existence do accept a certain quantity of students, few of them want to become imams.

    Most sign up to learn Arabic or the basics of theology,'' sociologist Romain Sèze told Libération. France's young Muslims are generally not attracted to this work since it ''is badly paid, there are few social protections in place and there is no work contract. Imams depend on mosques, mosque-goers and public authorities.''(ANSAmed).

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