France scraps imam exchange: We cannot have Turkish laws in our Republic

France will replace an imam exchange program that was established in 1977 and allowed teachers to be sent to France from nine countries to teach languages and culture without Paris' supervision, President Emmanuel Macron said on Feb. 17. Instead, France will sign bilateral agreements with those nine countries, though not with Ankara.

Duvar English

Turkey's continued sending of imams to France will depend on whether it is willing to partake in a bilateral agreement that would allow Paris to over the curriculum, French President Emmanuel Macron said Feb. 18.

Macron said that the government will be scrapping a program established in 1977 that allows nine countries to send imams and educators to France and teach there without any supervision.

To replace the program, Paris will sign bilateral agreements with the countries France's Muslim citizens hail from. Paris has thus far reached agreements with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

"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 om the grounds of our Republic," Macron said.

"We cannot have Turkey's laws on French soil. No way."

Macron's government asked France's top Islamic authority to train imams in the country to ensure they speak French and don't spread Islamist views.

Avoiding "separatism" vs. Islamophobia

Macron said that the scrapping of the program was an effort to avoid "separatism" and "communitarianism", the forming of self-governing ethnic or religious enclaves inside the country.

"The problem arises when, in the name of a certain religion, some seek to separate themselves from the Republic and not respect its laws,” he said.

Macron insisted that the new measures that will be adopted are not anti-Islam, but rather, an effort to integrate the Muslim community into daily life.

Turkey's Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop responded to Macron's comments Feb. 19, calling his attitude Islamophobic.

"Macron's remarks on struggling with Islamic separatism are an example of crude Islamophobia. France should first confront its history of massacres and genocides" Şentop said in a Tweet.

Turkey runs a host of mosques in France through its Ministry of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet. This was regarded a tool to promote Turkey's soft power abroad.