French President Emmanuel Macron has announced measures to end a programme that allowed foreign countries to send imams and teachers to France in a bid to crack down on what he called the risk of “separatism,” France24 reports.
During a visit to the eastern French city of Mulhouse, Macron said the government sought to combat “foreign interference” in how Islam is practiced and the way its religious institutions are organised.
“A problem arises when, in the name of religion, some want to separate themselves from the Republic and therefore not respect its laws,” he said.
‘We cannot have Turkey’s laws on France’
The scrapping of the programme granting countries the right to send imams and teachers to France would instead be replaced by bilateral agreements to ensure French state has control over the courses and their content starting in September.
France had agreements with a number of countries, including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, said Macron. But the only country with which France did not reach a bilateral agreement was Turkey.
“Turkey today can make the choice to follow that path with us or not, but I won’t let any foreign country feed a cultural, religious or identity-related separatism on our Republic’s ground,” he said.
“We cannot have Turkey’s laws on France’s ground. No way,” Macron added.
Turkey runs a vast network of mosques inside the country and abroad under the powerful Diyanet, or Directorate of Religious Affairs. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Diyanet budget has dramatically increased amid criticism that the body was being used by Ankara as a foreign policy tool and an attempt to extend Turkey’s soft power.