French interior minister Cazeneuve hosts talks on the future of Islam in France
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French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve held a day of talks on Islam's place in France Monday in an effort to better integrate the religion with the “values of the Republic”, in the wake of a dispute over the burkini full-body swimsuit.
The foundation would finance education and cultural projects and non-religious training of imams, such as history of religion classes, he said.
However Cazeneuve ruled out drafting a national law to ban burkinis, noting that it would be "unconstitutional" for France to pass such a law and the move could cause irreparable harm.
Some right-wing leaders are seeking the move after a top court last week overturned a municipal ban on the full-body swimsuit in the Mediterranean town of Villeneuve-Loubet.
Building bridges after a bitter summer
Although the controversy over the burkini ban is far from over, leaders of France’s Muslim community hope that last week’s ruling by the Conseil d'État, France’s top administrative court, will help decisively turn the page on the issue now that the ban has been overturned in at least one town.
“This positive step will bring an end to the nauseating story of the burkini,” said Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil français du culte musulman, or CFCM).
>> Watch more on FRANCE24.com: “French Connections: Understanding the burkini ban”
Ahead of Monday’s talks at the interior ministry in Paris, Cazeneuve said he would name veteran politician Jean-Pierre Chevènement to head the independent body charged with handling relations between the state and the religion's representatives.
The recent burkini controversy has exposed secular France’s difficulties grappling with religious tolerance after Islamist militant attacks in a Normandy church and the Riviera city of Nice in July. Images of armed police apparently enforcing the ban on a woman on a beach in Nice have added to the controversy.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)