French prisons to hire imams to curb radicals

Justice Minister Christine Taubira has announced plans to employ more imams in French prisons, as a way of preventing Islamic extremism being fomented.

Taubira revealed plans to employ 15 imams in 2013 to cover 30 of the 200 prisons in France.

“We have to make sure that religion and worship take place, but that these also respect the values and laws of the Republic,” she said.

“I factored into the 2013 budget to take on 15 full-time imams, who would be able to cover 30 establishments,” she said.

“I’m going to try to do the same thing in 2014, which will allow us to have 30 more establishments with imams.”

There are currently 60 prisons in France who have their own imam.

“But we’re not mixing all the issues into one – there is a problem of overcrowding in prisons and a lack of privacy for inmates, which can lead to deliquency” said Taubira.

“It is therefore absolutely not just a problem of radicalisation.”

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Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.