Macron: Islamist Separatism Incompatible with Freedom, Equality, Indivisibility of France

These foreign imams constitute but a small part of the total number of imams in France – many of them work as volunteers, often itinerant — officiating in the more than the 2,500 Muslim places of worship in France. Experts estimate that the number of French-born imams is about 1,800.

Macron said that his government was planning to end the current system of offering students optional courses in foreign languages, taught by teachers sent to France, and funded by, the governments of other countries (the system is known as Les enseignements de langue et culture d’origine, or ELCO) and fold it into another foreign-language teaching system, called EILE (for Les enseignements internationaux de langues étrangères).

Macron said that the ELCO system will be abolished at the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

He said:

I am uncomfortable with the idea of having women and men in the schools of the Republic who can teach without the Ministry of Education having any control [over them]. And neither do we have control over the programs they teach…. You cannot teach things which are clearly incompatible with either the laws of the Republic or with history as we see it.

Macron said that agreements had already been reached with Algeria, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Serbia, and Tunisia — but not with Turkey – over teachers sent by these countries to teach in French schools. The reform of the foreign-teacher program will effect “80,000 students” per year, he said, adding: “I think Turkey has the choice today to follow this path with us. But I will not allow any foreign country to nourish, on the soil of the Republic, a separatism – be it religious, political, or [based on] identity.”

Earlier in the day, speaking with residents of Bourtzwiller, Macron said that “The Republic must keep its promises. We must fight against separatism because when the Republic does not keep its promises, others try to replace it.”

Bourtzwiller, home to more than 15,000 residents, was chosen for this visit because it faces “real difficulties,” the president said, noting the presence of “orgnizations which advocated leaving the Republic,” “school truancy, [and] external influences.”

The neighborhood is one of 47 neighborhoods in France which, in 2018, were designated as “neighborhoods of republican reconquest” (quartiers de reconquête républicaine, or QRR): These were particularly high-crime and high-delinquency neighborhoods on the outskirts of big cities, often populated by immigrants, in which new policing methods and approaches have been tried in order to find a more effective way to fight crime and increase residents’ involvement.

Bourtzwiller is also one of the 17 urban areas where the French authorities have focused on fighting Islamist radicalization, using an approach called “cells against Islamism and community withdrawal” (cellules contre l’islamisme et le repli communautaire, or CLIR). The policy plants “cells” comprising police officers, social workers, and psychologists inside these neighborhoods, where they work in a coordinated fashion to tackle radicalization. Macron said he was working to bolster CLIR with more funds and manpower.

The conservative opposition in France has pressed Macron for a more decisive and sharply defined approach to the issue of Islamic radicalization, describing his approach since taking power in 2017 as “lax.” “Emmanuel Macron will do what he has done best for three years: he will give a speech, but where are his actions? “said Bruno Retailleau, a senior member of Les Républicains (LR), the main conservative opposition. LR’s second in command, Guillaume Peltier, called for “strong and clear actions because we are losing the war against political Islam.”