June 2004 Church & State | AU Bulletin

In an effort to prevent Muslim leaders from promoting extreme dogma, a top French government official has suggested that the country begin training imams to respect human rights.

In late April, French officials expelled an imam who said unfaithful wives should be stoned. The next day, Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin told a gathering of local religious leaders that he would not hesitate to deport other preachers from the country who advocate violence, hatred, racism or human rights abuses, The Guardian, a London-based newspaper, reported.

De Villepin also said that France had to "face the issue of training imams. I ask you to help the Muslim faith get organized better and more quickly so that a real 'French Islam' can emerge," he said.

The New York Times reported on April 30 that France had kicked five Muslim clerics out of the country this year and that dozens have been tossed out since 2001. The latest expulsion was that of Abdelkader Bouziane, who told a reporter that husbands should hit their wives, that polygamy is acceptable, that women are inferior to men and that listening to music is a sin.

According to the Times, Bouziane told the reporter that a man shouldn't hit his wife in the face, "but aim lower, the legs or the stomach." He added that a man is justified in hitting his wife with great force to instill fear in her.