France

French Muslim group welcomes training of imams in Morocco

François Hollande walks with King Mohammed VI on his arrival at the airport in Tangier, 19 September 2015.
François Hollande walks with King Mohammed VI on his arrival at the airport in Tangier, 19 September 2015. Reuters/Alain Jocard/Pool

The Union of Mosques in France (UMF) welcomed Sunday's Franco-Moroccan statement on the training of imams, which “must be at the heart of any prevention programme in the fight against extremists", it said.

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France and Morocco on Saturday signed a joint statement on cooperation in the training of imams at the Mohammed VI Institute, opened in Rabat in March, during French President Francois Hollande’s two-day visit this weekend.

The training will promote "an Islam with the right balance" that conforms to "values of openness and tolerance".

As many as 50 French imams could attend the international institute each year for religious training.

"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 UMF head Mohammed Moussaoui in a statement.

A first class of 20 students from France joined the Institute at its inauguration in March, while 30 more are expected to begin this month, according to the UMF.

The average duration of the training is three years. On their return to France, students will enrol in additional academic training focused on the sociology of religion in France and the right of worship.

The 20-million-dollar (18-million-euro) facility is intended for training of Muslim scholars and imams from all over the world, including Mali, the UK and China.

The question of the imam training is the subject of debate in France around the theology taught and their adherence to the country’s values.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called in February for a push to encourage imams to take university-level civics classes.

Climate change will also be on the agenda during Hollande's visit, ahead of the COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change to be held in Paris from the end of November.

Morocco, which will host the COP22 event at the end of 2016, is the first Maghreb country to have submitted its contribution to lowering emissions, with the goal of moving to 42 per cent use of renewable energy by 2020.

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