On 18 January 2021, Macron received at the Élysée Palace the leaders of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), and received from them the final text of the "Charter of the Principles of Islam in France", which clearly condemns "political Islam" and the "foreign links of some Islamic organisations". However, the document was not signed by all eight federations of the CFCM, as three federations failed to sign.
This paper sheds light on the content of the Charter of the Principles of Islam in France, and attempts to dissect the composition of the CFCM and analyse the effects of applying the contents of the Charter on the work of political Islam groups and groups associated with the Turkish influence inside France.
CFCM: a complex composition
The CFCM was established in 2003 as an independent body that aims to represent Muslims in France before the state authorities in matters related to religious practice, given that the CFCM intervenes in building mosques, organising the halal (permissible from the Islamic perspective) food market, training imams (worship leaders), developing Islamic representations in prisons and the French army, and building yards allocated to Muslims in cemeteries. It is responsible for determining the dates of the religious holidays for Muslims, especially the month of Ramadan.
The establishment of the CFCM came after several failed attempts since the beginning of the 1990s between the French authorities and Islamic organisations and mosques to find a final formula for a body that would represent Muslims before the state. Those attempts, which began in 1990 with Interior Minister Pierre Joxe and continued with his successor Jean-Pierre Chevènement, clashed first with a French desire to deal with the issue of Muslims in France as a security issue, and secondly, with the sectarian and political divisions of the Islamic organisations and associations active on French soil. However, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy succeeded in 2002 in gathering eight large Islamic organisations on a common ground to establish a representative body for the Islamic religion, in a context marked by many pressures on Muslims around the world in the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001, so that the CFCM emerged in 2003, being composed of organisations of different political and ideological orientations, each with external loyalty and support, although all belong to the Sunni sect. The CFCM consists of the following federations:
The content of the Charter and the controversy thereon
On 18 November 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron met with the leaders of the CFCM and asked them to draw up within 15 days a "Charter of Republican Values" that would bind the CFCM and the eight federations comprising it, provided that it includes an affirmation of recognition of the values of the Republic, specifies that Islam in France is a religion and not a political movement, and stipulates an end to intervention by or affiliation with foreign countries. At that time, France was experiencing a wide controversy about Islam and Muslims in the Republic in the wake of the terrorist events that struck Paris and Nice, in which a number of citizens were killed, including history teacher Samuel Patty after he re-published the offensive cartoons to the Prophet Muhammad during a class to educate on freedom of expression.
However, the deadline of fifteen days requested by the French President was extended to two months. On 18 January 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron received the President of the CFCM, accompanied by five representatives of five federations that agreed on a final version of what they called the "Charter of the Principles of Islam in France". The delegation handed President Macron a copy of the Charter, which was made up of ten articles and a short preamble. The contents of the Charter ranged from an emphasis on the principle of equality between the sexes, an emphasis on the compatibility of Islamic law with the principles of the Republic, and the rejection of some customary practices that were claimed to be Islamic.
Yet the article that sparked widespread controversy within the CFCM and prompted three federations within the CFCM to refuse to sign the Charter was Article 6 that rejects all forms of political Islam and foreign intervention. In that article, the authors of the Charter state the following:
“The purpose of the ‘Charter of Principles’ is to combat any form of the use of Islam for political or ideological purposes. Therefore, the signatories undertake to refuse to participate in any approach that promotes what is known as ‘political Islam’. We persistently fight against any movement or ideology whose project diverts our religion from its true goal, and tries to create relationships of power and fractures in our society. Thus, we undertake not to use or permit the use of Islam or the concept of the ummah (community of believers) from a local or national political perspective, or for the purposes of a political agenda dictated by a foreign power that denies pluralism in Islam. We refuse to allow places of worship to be used to disseminate political discourse or to import conflicts occurring elsewhere in the world. Our mosques and places of worship are reserved to prayer and the transmission of values. They are not erected for the dissemination of nationalist speeches defending foreign regimes and supporting foreign policies hostile to France, our country, and to our French compatriots. Therefore, deviation from the religion represented in the use of Islam for political purposes must be rejected with full force and without reservation”.
In the footnote of the document, the authors of the Charter clarify the concept of "political Islam" as referring to "the political or ideological currents known as Salafism (Wahhabism), tabligh (preaching), and those related to the thought of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the nationalist currents associated with it".
In reference to the rejection of foreign intervention by some countries to employ Muslims in France and to influence them religiously and politically, the following is mentioned in Article 6 of the Charter:
“We are committed to financing our places of worship through national funding. Any funding from abroad from a foreign country, a non-governmental organisation, or a legal or natural person must fully comply with the laws in force, and not give any donor the right to interfere, directly or indirectly, in the practice of Muslim worship in France. The signatories must clearly reject any intervention from outside in the management of their mosques and the mission of their imams.”
The CCMTF, the Turkish CMIG, and the Organisation for Faith and Practice (Tabligh) all refused to sign the Charter in its current form, in objection to Article 6, given that the CCMTF considers rejecting foreign intervention in financing and managing Islamic institutions in France as a direct targeting of the CCMTF, being an organisation that administratively and financially reports to the Turkish state. For its part, the CMIG believes that this article targets the CMIG from two perspectives: first, as a group that belongs to the political Islam movement and relies on its associations and mosques to promote this approach. At the same time, it has external loyalties to the ruling regime in Ankara. Turkish organisations considered that "certain paragraphs and the language of the presented text are likely to weaken the bonds of trust between the Muslims of France and the nation". On the other hand, Tablighi Jamaat objects to the definition of political Islam contained in the footnote of the Charter, which considers the tabligh (preaching) and Salafism as part of the political Islam stream.
This rejection was expected at least by the French administration. During his first meeting with the leaders of the CFCM in November 2020, President Macron indicated that there are federations that refuse to abide by the principles of the French Republic. Disagreements within the CFCM over the wording of the Charter, which would result in the formation of the National Council of Imams (NCI), the body exclusively authorised to grant work permits to mosque imams and preachers, almost ruined it. In late December 2020, the Dean of the GMP Chems-eddine Hafiz announced his withdrawal from the project to form the NCI, and said in a statement: “Unfortunately, the Islamic component within the CFCM, especially the one associated with foreign regimes hostile to France, has maliciously obstructed negotiations through its almost systematic challenge of some important paragraphs in the Charter".
However, what is interesting in the birth path of the of the Charter and the controversy that it raised is the Brotherhood's silence, given that the MF (UOIF), the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood Group, did not object to the text of the Charter despite the latter’s rejection of political Islam and foreign loyalties. This reveals radical transformations in the approach by the Muslim Brotherhood to the new French policies towards Islamic currents.
Effects of adopting the Charter on Islamic groups and Turkish organisations
The adoption of the Charter by consensus between the Macron administration and the CFCM comes in the light of a confrontation, which appears radical and unprecedented, by the French authorities against political Islam and Islamic action organisations with external loyalty. Through pressure on the CFCM, Macron has succeeded in obtaining an explicit condemnation of those currents and has thus succeeded in the process of separating the actors that could contribute in the future to formulating a French Islam that takes into account the political and social peculiarities of Muslims in France from the actors that seek to use Muslims in France as part of their political programmes or as a tool of their foreign policy, such as Turkey. The effects of adherence to this Charter can be listed in the following points:
 For more on the history of the foundation of the CFCM and the historical and political contexts of its foundation, see: Nathalie Dollé, Qui représentera les musulmans de France?, Le Monde diplomatique, Janvier 2002, page 6.
 Rapport Institut Montaigne, "Un islam français est possible", Sep. 2016, p 67. https://www.institutmontaigne.org/ressources/pdfs/publications/rapport-un-islam-francais-est_-possible.pdf
 Established in 1924, the Turkish PRA has a large budget and employs nearly 85,000 religious officials. It organises annually the Hajj (Pilgrimage) rituals for tens of thousands of Turks. The PRA supports a strong cultural institution (Turkiye Diyanet Foundation) that publishes theological or historical and popular research and works. It also publishes the Turkish version of Islam. The PRA also deals with the organisation of official Islamic worship in Turkish diasporas in Europe for several years, and carries out cooperation activities in the Turkish-speaking republics and the republics of the former Soviet Union.
 For more information on the CMIG Group and its European networks, see: Valérie Amiraux, ACTEURS DE L'ISLAM ENTRE ALLEMAGNE ET TURQUIE: Parcours militants et expériences religieuses, Paris, L'Harmattan 2001.
 Samir Amghar, Le Tabligh, une multinationale du religieux - La grande histoire de l'Islam - Grands Dossiers Hors-série N° 4, nov/déc 2015, jan 2016, Sciences Humaines. https://www.scienceshumaines.com/le-tabligh-une-multinationale-du-religieux_fr_35326.html
 Ahmed Nadhif, “The ‘French Awakening’ Against Political Islam: Motivations and Future Repercussions”, Emirates Policy Center (EPC), 21 December 2020. Available at: https://epc.ae/topic/the-french-awakening-against-political-islam-motivations-and-future-repercussions
 Cesari Jocelyne, Principaux courants et associations de l'islam français. In: CEMOTI, n°33, 2002. Musulmans d'Europe. pp. 39-42. https://doi.org/10.3406/cemot.2002.1626
 The full text of the Charter as published by the CFCM on its website is available at the link: https://www.cfcm-officiel.fr/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Charte-des-principes-17.01.2021.pdf
 Les trois fédérations du CFCM non signataires de la «Charte» s’expliquent – MEDYATURK, 21 janvier 2021. https://www.medyaturk.info/france/2021/01/21/les-trois-federations-du-
 “France: Paris Mosque withdraws ‘permanently’ from the project to form a national council of imams”, France 24, 29 December 2020. Available at: https://bit.ly/2M577t7
EPC | 23 Feb 2021
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Ahmed Nadhif | 13 Feb 2021