This week the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has made a statement that supports the idea of banning foreign funding to all mosques. This idea has been raised in an attempt to improve the security of France, a country that has been the target of multiple high-profile terror attacks which have been claimed by the so-called Islamic State. This Islamic extremist terrorist group recruits some individuals for its cause through local mosques where preachers prey on and eventually radicalize people living in the West. It is thought that by cutting off the money from extremist groups, the incentive for a mosque to turn a blind eye to extremism, or even to actively encourage it, will be diminished and so will the number of radicalized individuals. I believe that this is a wholly political move by a PM who is struggling with unpopularity and needs to be seen to be doing something, and that this will actually have the opposite effect to that which he desires.
Firstly, funding will continue to be paid to extremist mosques from terrorist groups. This potential change seems to function on the strange assumption that groups like ISIS are going to be scared off by a law. The truth of the matter is that they will not be asking the French government’s permission to send money, but will simply find illegal ways to get the money to the mosques because inherently they care more about recruiting people than they do the wishes of the French Prime Minister. The chance to annoy him more will probably just add to their incentive.
Not only will there will still be exactly the same number of mosques being funded by terrorist groups, but there will also be fewer normal mosques being funded by legitimate religious groups and therefore mosques that currently get their funding in legitimate ways will be more likely to turn to illegal funding to keep their mosque alive. This means they are more likely to get swept away into the realms of extremism, creating more mosques that turn a blind eye to radicalism.
Not only will this policy actively increase the number of mosques that have to turn to extreme Islamic groups, but this will create other social repercussions too. This law would only apply to mosques and not other places of worship like churches and synagogues. Although this is understandable -because the threat that the PM wants a solution to is one of extreme Islam- it is still inherently offensive to people of this specific religion because it characterizes all external Islamic funding groups as criminals or ‘a threat’. It tells the general population that all Muslims are likely to be a security threat, as instead of finding those which are extremist it stops all of them funding places of worship. This idea not only represents a vast generalization, but a mindset that the state will feed out into wider society, creating division between Muslims and others.
Furthermore, mosques are a key place where radicalism can be spotted and stopped at its source. Surely if the government really want to locate terrorists or mosques that need to be shut down, they should start building alliances with religious groups, helping them to spot and report potential terrorism and eradicate the mosques that are dangerous. Cutting off the Muslim community will only serve to breed more animosity towards the state, pushing the followers of Islam away from society and making it harder to locate the threats when they arise.
The French PM is struggling to maintain his reputation in a country that increasingly distrusts the state. He has proposed this policy because it sounds good and not because it will do well in actuality. It is poorly thought through policy decisions like these, made in fear and carried out with hate, which will increase the threat of terror in France. If the government wants to survive and wants its citizens protected, it must stop pandering to populism and start thinking.