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19th Jan 2020

Brussels questions EU capitals over approach to Islam

Following failed car bomb attacks at two UK airports leading to the arrest of Muslim suspects, Brussels is pooling ideas on how to tackle radical Islam and create a more tolerant "European" branch of the faith.

EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini is sending out an 18-question survey - seen by EUobserver - asking EU capitals how they address violent radicalisation, mainly related to an abusive interpretation of Islam.

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"Unfortunately, one of the great religions of the world - Islam - is being abused to foster a new totalitarian ideology that challenges our way of life", Mr Frattini told journalists earlier this week (3 July).

"We have to find out what member states are doing here, to see how to learn from one another – namely, to protect the vast majority of Muslims who deplore this perversion of their religion", he added.

According to Brussels, the questionnaire is particularly designed to bring more clarity and transparency to mosques on EU territory including how they are financed as well as how their imams are recruited and trained.

"Those propagating violent extremist ideologies of some kind may try to influence education establishments", the paper notes, asking EU states "what policies or practical initiatives have you adopted in order to ensure that education establishments are not vulnerable to this type of influence?".

It continues by asking what policies are adopted on funding and supervision of religious schools, as well as what requirements are set by the state on the functions of a religious leader.

It also asks how EU member states are trying to diminish the threat of a radical having access to any form of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear scientific knowledge.

EU states are expected to reply by the end of September.

The answers will then feed into a commission document, due for publication in 2008, that will present an EU-wide strategy on violent radicatization.

\"European Islam\"

In addition, Mr Frattini is set to pursue and further the idea of establishing a so-called "European Islam" or "Islam de l'Europe" – something floated by France's then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy in 2006.

"That is quite difficult and ambitious, but the time has come to put on the table a political discussion to protect the large majority of Muslims living here peacefully who deplore and fight against radicalisation and the distortion of Islam for purposes of violence and hatred", Mr Frattini said.

The concept is to have Islam "fully and unambiguously respecting values and sanctity of life cherished in Europe", Mr Frattini's spokesperson said on the idea, referring to "everything mentioned in the Charter of Fundamental Rights" - document laying out the economic, social and civic rights of EU citizens.

Mosque reality

Meanwhile, a BBC commissioned report has unveiled that only eight percent of imams preaching in British mosques were born in the UK, while only six percent of them speak English as a first language.

Fifty percent of Muslim preachers come from Pakistan, twenty percent from Bangladesh and fifteen percent from India.

"The study reveals a deeply conservative body of individuals maintaining traditional languages, types of qualification and still largely recruited from the place of origin", the report's author, professor Ron Geaves, was cited as saying by the BBC.

In addition, the study has shown that while the imams are well-qualified in the traditional Islamic curriculum, they lack the skills to adapt to modern society.

"Although there are social religious and political reasons that drive a need to transform the Imamate to a 21st century British context there is as yet little sign of the mosque imams or their employers being ready to professionalise", Mr Geaves said.

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