French army arranges Islamic Hajj travel under state control

French army has arrenged travel to Hajj pilgrimage for its Muslim officiers, intensfying state control on the Islamic practices, a report said.

French army arranges Islamic Hajj travel under state control

World Bulletin / News Desk

French army has arranged travel to Hajj pilgrimage for its Muslim officiers, intensfying state control on the Islamic practices, a report said.

Such governmental arrengement is unusual in Europe, especially in France that imposes a ban on Muslim women who wear headscarf and burqa.

In a break from tradition, the Defence Ministry will provide a plane to fly them to Saudi Arabia and organize their stay, Golbal and Mail said.

French army created a Muslim religous body only in 2005, in a move that seems make Muslims as equal with Catholic, Protestant and Jewish officier among soldiers. But last year, the army sent two of its imams to a government-sponsored class on citizenship and secular values for imams, the first of its kind, streghtening secular view, state ideology, on Muslims and their Islamic practices.

They attended in a special course in French-style secularism. Another six imams will attend the course this fall.

Some French Muslim leaders also criticized it as an inappropriate attempt by the state to take on the training of imams, the report said.

An imam in military said they explained Muslims who suffered because of bans on Islamic practices that they have to "accept" such bans in the "secular" France.

Meanwhile, there are also problems in army about the meals of Muslim soldiers during Ramadan.

"There were no accommodations for Ramadan," Elyamine Settoul, a doctoral student at the Institute for Political Studies in Paris who has surveyed minorities in the military, was quoted as saying. "If the meals contained pork they weren't offered an alternative. It created tensions. But they say it's much better now."

Minorities are still clustered almost exclusively in the lower ranks. But Muslims have served in the army since France's days as a colonial power 150 years ago and, until mandatory conscription was ended in 1996, they were drafted as soldiers like other young French men.

France has Western Europe's largest Muslim population, an estimated 5million. But in 2004 it passed a law banning the Islamic headscarf and other conspicuous religious symbols from state schools, sparking fierce debate at home and abroad.

The European country has set up a special panel of 32 lawmakers to consider whether a law should be enacted to bar Muslim women from wearing the full veil, known as a burqa or niqab.

Statistics are not available because, officially, the state does not collect data according to ethnicity, religion or race. But the ratio of Muslims in the military, including the national police or gendarmerie, mirrors that in the population as a whole, according to Capt. Bouharb and other officials.


Last Mod: 16 Eylül 2009, 16:50
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