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Friday, April 30, 2004

NYTimes: "France Struggles to Curb Extremist Muslim Clerics"

de Villepin's answer? to encourage the emergence of a tolerant "French Islam"
VÉNISSIEUX, France, April 23 — This town's largest mosque is temporarily leaderless, its chief cleric having been expelled from France last week for advocating wife beating, stoning and other medieval Islamic views at odds with the principles of the modern French state.

The cleric, Abdelkader Bouziane, was the fifth cleric expelled from France this year on charges of spreading a dangerously divisive brand of radical Islam. The country has kicked out dozens since 2001. . . .

Part of the problem is a dearth of domestically trained clerics to lead congregations of European-born Muslims. As a result, mosques like that in Vénissieux often have to rely on imported imams or self-proclaimed clerics who espouse fundamentalist beliefs that grate against Europe's more tolerant societies. . . .

Mr. de Villepin said last week that France would have to help Muslims to train moderate prayer leaders here to encourage the emergence of a tolerant "French Islam." The country's government-sponsored Muslim Council is working on a training program but says it needs state aid. Any government move to support such a program, however, faces huge obstacles because of France's strict laws barring the state from meddling in religion.
If you make it to the final paragraph, you are rewarded with this enlightening tidbit:
In the housing projects near Mr. Bouziane's mosque, a young man with a closely cropped beard said he thought that the cleric had done nothing wrong. "If my wife cheats on me, I have the right to correct her," he said, "and not just with a slap on the bottom, but with a gunshot."