The world was shocked by the knife attacks on two people outside the former offices of the weekly Charlie Hebdo in September, the beheading of Professor Samuel Paty in a Paris suburb in October and the brutal murder of three people inside. Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice in October. 29.
“The greatest heartache for Muslims in France is this kind of vicious terrorist attack. They are trying to find a solution to express that these attacks have nothing to do with the religion of fellow citizens who are not Muslims and do not know Muslims very well, ”Sarıkır told Anadolu Agency (AA), accusing media and far-right political parties for fueling anti-Islam sentiments in the country.
“They say things like ‘See, Islam and Muslims are involved in such atrocities.’ This greatly upsets Muslims, ”said Sarıkır, who hastily added that this is not general opinion in France.
“For example, during a recent attack on the church in Nice, church officials sent positive messages to the Muslim community. They supported us and said that we could live in a friendly atmosphere and that these incidents had nothing to do with Islam. He said, adding that those who committed the terrible acts of violence were not brought up in the Muslim community of over 5 million people who live in France.
Pressure on French Muslims
The pressure French Muslims are under in the light of recent events, however, is undeniable.
“When there is a terrorist attack, the media scans our religion. Muslims live under this pressure. But it would be wrong to say that the French state puts pressure on Muslims, ”explained Sarıkır, blaming the extreme right groups.
“The media have an important responsibility in this regard. Unfortunately, we aspire to media that are more aware and sensitive to these issues. They quickly make sensational headlines, which we disapprove of, ”he said.
According to Sarıkır, the media falsely labeled a suspect, who was killed in the city of Avignon after police found him wielding a handgun in the street and threatening a North African trader in October, as ” Islamist ”.
A police source later told the French daily Le Figaro that the suspect had undergone psychiatric treatment and that he was a member of Generation Identitaire, a French branch of the anti-migrant and xenophobic group Generation Identity, which attracts young people via social networks exploit fears about refugees and terrorism. Its members have propagated white supremacist ideas and anti-Muslim and racist conspiracy theories.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s role in cracking down on Muslims in the country is enormous as he has gradually adopted stronger anti-Islamist rhetoric aimed at attracting Islamophobes. He said in October: “Islam is a religion in crisis all over the world today; we do not see it only in our country ”, adding that it seeks to“ liberate ”Islam in France from foreign influences by improving the monitoring of mosque funding.
Meeting with Macron
Last week, the French president held a meeting with the heads of the main Muslim organizations, which Sarıkır attended.
According to Sarıkır, Macron listened to all representatives from nine different organizations for two hours as they transparently raised their issues.
“The creation of the French Council of Imams has been on the agenda for four years under the aegis of the Council of Muslim Faith (CFCM). We’ve been working on it for four years and we were finally able to present it to our president, ”says Sarıkır.
Noting that there are more than 2,500 mosques in France and that the imams of these mosques need to be accredited, Sarıkır said the state is not interfering with the process but wants to see systematic work in this area.
“Nine organizations under the CFCM will propose to whom accreditation will be granted. After verification of the candidatures for certain criteria, the presidents of these nine organizations and nine imams of these organizations will vote on the decision, ”he explained.
They are working very closely on the details, said Sarıkır, adding that the establishment of the Council of Imams will give Muslims a sense of confidence and also strengthen them in terms of representation.
In the statement adopted after the meeting with Macron, the controversial words “open Islam” were written. Sarıkır said this phrase is meant to mean that religion is accessible to everyone, not that the country is creating a new Islam.
“Open Islam means opening it up to everyone and being transparent and inclusive, without changing religion. This would challenge the heart of our religion and I firmly reject the critics who claim that we are trying to change Islam, ”he said.
Sarıkır has also recently disagreed with classifying Islam with ideologies like liberalism or secularism, or nationalities such as Turkish Islam, Arab Islam, or French Islam.