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Could France fund new mosques by a 'tax on halal'?

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The minaret of the Grand Mosque of Paris. Photo: AFP
10:55 CET+01:00
A French MP and member of France's Republican Party has argued that a tax on halal products would allow for "an autonomous French Islam".

The suggestion of taxing halal products in order to fund the building of mosques was first made by Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, from France's Republic Party, in her book, Nous avons changé de monde (We have a changed world) which was published last month.

She appeared on France 2 on Saturday night to defend the propposition.

"You consume this product which has a religious aspect and the money goes to finance the religion," she explained on talk show "On n'est pas Couché".

When asked by the host to explain her "novel idea", Kosciusko-Morizet replied: "I think that it is reasonable to find a way for everyone to finance their own religion," adding that the Catholic Church relies on monetary donations from parishioners.

She argued that while politicians claim they want to create "a French Islam", the reality was that "in fact we negotiate on it with the Maghreb [Northern African countries]", since the bulk of funding for mosques comes from abroad, including Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Yann Moix, one of the commentators on the TV programme, argued that the provision would go against the 1905 law separating religion and state, but Kosciusko-Morizet said she was "sure that it is legal and constitutional".

She said that the halal market is worth €6 billion per year, so a 1 percent tax would draw in €60 million in mosque funding.

France's Muslim community have long-complained about the need for more mosques in a country that is said to be home to around five million Muslims. The issue often flares up and has led to Muslims praying on the streets outside mosques in protest at a lack of funding.

Last year there were calls by some in the community to turn some of the country's many empty churches into mosques, which drew much opposition on the right.

However France's official secular status has often led to tensions with its large Muslim community.

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Laws on banning Muslim women from wearing the burqa and niqab in public were seen as a veiled attack on the Muslim community. And right-wing and far-right politicians have often complained about halal meat being offered in state-run canteens.

In the wake of the November terrorist attacks in Paris, claimed by Isis, politicians from the left and right called for mosques to deliver sermons in French and for imams to receive a permit ensuring they promote "a tolerant and open Islam".

Under the state of emergency, three 'radical mosques' have been forced to close.

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