France says no place for Milli Gorus

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The Eyyub Sultan Mosque is being built in Strasbourg by the Milli Gorus and other associations.

Paris (AFP)

An influential Turkish religious association founded by the mentor of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has no place in France as it goes against French values, the government spokesman said Thursday.

The Milli Gorus association has courted controversy in France in recent weeks by refusing to take part in a government-coordinated charter against Islamist extremism and over its backing of a new mosque in the eastern city of Strasbourg.

Tensions between Paris and Ankara are also running high after a series of rows between Erdogan and President Emmanuel Macron, who warned last week that Turkey would meddle in 2022 presidential elections.

“I consider that this is an association which goes against the values of the (French) Republic, which fights against the values of the Republic, against equality between women and men, against human dignity,” Gabriel Attal told BFM TV in an interview.

“Clearly it should not organise activities and exist in the Republic,” he added, while emphasising he was not announcing that the organisation was being banned.

Milli Gorus is among three Islamic groups in France which in January refused to sign up to an anti-extremism charter championed by Macron after a spate of attacks blamed on radicals.

Based in the German city of Cologne, Milli Gorus is a pan-European movement for the Turkish diaspora founded by late prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, regarded as the father of political Islam in Turkey and Erdogan’s mentor.

Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has in recent years distanced itself from Milli Gorus but its conservative values remain close to those of the president.

According to its website, Milli Gorus is a “key player in the life of Muslims in France”. It assists with pilgrimages, funerals, the construction of mosques and religious instruction.

In an interview with Le Point magazine published Thursday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin warned that the state had “nothing to negotiate” with the groups that refused to sign the charter and would step up controls of their activities.

“That certain associations did not wish to sign it has revealed this shadowy world of foreign interference and extremist movements operating on our soil,” he said.

French legislators are currently debating a draft law on cracking down on Islamist extremism seen as seeking to limit the influence of religious groups with foreign funding and restrict their role in education.

Officials in Strasbourg, run by a Green mayor, earlier this month approved a grant of 2.5 million euros (nearly $3 million) to Milli Gorus to build a new mosque, sparking an angry reaction from the government.

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