PARIS, (Reuters) – Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urged French Muslim leaders yesterday to develop an “enlightened Islam” to confront what he called the obscurantist views of Islamic State that lead young Muslims into violence.
At their first meeting since the Nov. 13 killings of 130 people, he told about 400 Muslim leaders, imams and activists that France would do everything it could to track criminals, but only they could win the battle of ideas within Islam.
The unusual meeting of 10 Muslim federations and five grand mosques was arranged to “cry loud and clear our condemnation of these acts,” Anouar Kbibech, head of France’s Muslim Council (CFCM), said of the massacre in Paris by mostly French and Belgian recruits to the Syrian-based Islamic State movement.
It swore allegiance to France and ended with the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. France’s five-million-strong Muslim minority, Europe’s largest, makes up about 8 percent of the population. Two-thirds of them are French citizens.
Cazeneuve, whose portfolio includes religious affairs, recalled Islam’s “Golden Age” of prominent philosophers and cooperation among religions, which was a far cry from what he called the perverted Islam of today’s jihadists.
“It is your responsibility to revive this enlightened Islam to denounce the spiritual duplicity of the terrorists and those who follow them,” he told the meeting.
“You are the most legitimate and qualified to fight these deadly ideas … we must protect our youth from the spread of this stupidity,” he said. “Just think what effect this progressive Islam would have on the rest of Islam in the world.”
France is home to many Muslim intellectuals who write long treatises about reforming Islam to make it fit better into western society. Most have only faint resonance among practising Muslims here or in the Muslim world.