PARIS, Feb 2 (AFP) – Around a third of Muslim religious leaders practising in France do not speak French and are to be offered language training from the start of the next academic year, Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said Tuesday.
“Out of 1,200 imams, 400 do not speak our language,” Villepin told Canal Plus television. “These are the ones the courses are aimed at.”
In December Villepin proposed university tuition for foreign-born imams to teach them the French language, as well as law, civics and history.
The initiative is intended to encourage the development of a home-grown version of Islam, and lessen its dependence on foreign governments and institutions.
Around three-quarters of imams practising in France come from abroad.
Villepin said he was not opposed to foreign imams administering in France, but he said: “We must make sure they can get to know our practices, language and culture. That will take many years of work.”
France is estimated to have about five million Muslims – nearely ten percent of the population.