PARIS, Sept. 8 (UPI) — French President Francois Hollande challenged Muslims in his country to create “an Islam of France” that is respectful of a secular government and lives within French laws.
Hollande gave the stern speech on Thursday with falling public confidence and rising anti-Islamic sentiment in France after the Paris and Nice terror attacks and burkini bans on French beaches. He also called for kicking extremist imams out of the country. The country has been under a state of emergency since November.
Hollande said religion and state can live together peacefully in France.
“Nothing in the idea of secularism is opposed to the practice of Islam in France, as long — and that is the vital point — as it complies with the law,” Hollande said.
He also urged a sidestepping of France’s long-time laws against the state funding of houses of worship and called for “a national association in order to obtain financing for the building of mosques and the training of imams.”
The threat from foreign-funded mosques in France has grown, resulting in at least 20 mosques being closed for extolling extremist views since December, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in July.
Radical Islam has built “a fake state, led by real killers. It skews the Islamic religion to spread its hatred,” Hollande said.
The French president also tried to rally his countrymen, telling them:
“Our identity is our history, our culture, our values, our way of life. It is not frozen in time, it is not a still photograph. Identity is in perpetual motion. This is why France is more than an identity: it is an idea.
The danger will be to face the test. Should France doubt itself, it will stop, shrink and shut down.”