The Great Mosque in Paris and the French capital city’s Catholic university are getting together to offer non-religious university education for home-grown imams, so as to help integrate foreign-born Muslim leaders in France.
The Catholic Institute courses will be given by the social and economic sciences faculty and will not include any religious teaching, reports Muslim Weekly in France.
"We have no vocation to train imams religiously, that is the responsibility of the Grand Mosque," faculty dean Francois Mabille told reporters, adding: "The students will take political science courses on democracy, human rights and the French republic."
"This is an important innovation in Muslim education here," Paris Mosque director Dalil Boubakeur commented.
Boubakeur continued: "The students understand that there was is religious teaching but only courses in the social sciences faculty."
Boubakeur, is also president of the French Muslim Council, created in 2002 as a parallel to Christian councils.
The privately-run Catholic Institute of Paris will launch a two-semester course on French politics, law and secularism in January 2008 for future imams studying Islamic subjects at the mosque’s theology institute.
There are some 1,200 imams in France. Many lead prayers and offer spiritual and practical advice to the faithful with little or no formal training. Three-quarters are not French citizens and one-third do not speak French.
Similar issues arise in parts of the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, say analysts.