Is there a need for imam status in France?

Is there a need for imam status in France?

“The vagueness of the status makes us fear a vocations crisis”

Mohamed Khenissimember of the working group on the professionalization of imams within the Forum de l’Islam de France (Forif)

“For two years that we have been working within the group on the professionalization of Forif imams, we have defined the job description of an imam, and the different roles that he can occupy. But since the announcements by the Minister of the Interior, we know that we are encouraged by political will.

There is undeniably a concerted approach in the Forif: it is the State which initiated this structure, and which organizes it. But it is the field actors of Islam who have defined the areas of work. However, in our group, beyond the diversity of our backgrounds, the observation was unanimous: we have no status for the imam. Today, anyone can declare themselves an imam, and employment contracts, when they exist, remain unclear.

We have identified the different configurations on the ground: often, the mosque is attached to a 1901 law association, the imams hold contracts as association leaders, or educators. However, these contracts do not correspond to the reality of their function. The time range, for example, poses a problem: an imam sometimes starts at 4 a.m. to lead the first prayer, and ends at midnight for the last. It therefore does not respect the legal number of rest periods.

Many also have part-time contracts, or poor social security coverage. Others spend their lives officiating in mosques, then receive nothing for their retirement. In addition to leading prayer and delivering the Friday sermon, the imam is often asked by the faithful to accompany families, or by his mosque to organize events. He is called for everything and nothing.

However, the imam also has a family, he must rest, continue to study, and this is not necessarily taken into account… This vagueness of status makes us fear a vocations crisis: today, partly because of This means that fewer and fewer young people aspire to become imams. Our idea is to standardize this status, so that the job description serves as a reference for imams in France.

The status will then be proposed to the General Directorate of Labor. The administration will be able to provide legal approval and direct us towards a regime. We may have to create a collective agreement for imams. In this work, we first seek to create a law-abiding status that meets the needs of religious structures and actors. We are in the process of organizing a profession that has never been structured, with a whole history and multiple issues. »

“Without centralization of religious authority, the problem will remain unsolved”

Francis Messneremeritus research director at the CNRS, specialist in religious law.

“The Ministry of the Interior cannot, due to the principle of state neutrality, impose a status for ministers of religion. It is up to the religious confession to determine the status of its ministers. Monday February 26, Gérald Darmanin therefore advised the Muslim community to create it. It is possible to reason in relation to what exists in other religions. The status of priests, for example, is specified by the code of canon law of 1983. The Constitution of the United Protestant Church of France establishes the status of its pastors.

This includes training – what diplomas are required to be an imam? –, the remuneration scale and the content of the specifications. During a dispute, it sets the procedure that must be implemented, etc. Theological training itself is a matter of religion. The State can, however, set up additional training in the human and social sciences of Islam.

This is what it does through the French Institute of Islamology and the university diplomas in civil and civic training which currently exist throughout the territory. Remuneration is also the responsibility of religious communities, since the law of 1905 and the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Council prevent the remuneration of ministers of religion by the State. As for the specifications detailing spiritual missions, they must also be defined by the religions.

On the other hand, public authorities can intervene at the level of social protection. In principle, ministers of religion do not have an employment contract because it is considered that they carry out a spiritual mission and not salaried work which presupposes a relationship of subordination. They are affiliated to the Old Age Disability and Religious Illness Insurance Fund (Cavimac). Some who have an employment contract fall under the general regime.

The problem is that Cavimac pensions are capped and adapted to Catholic priests, who are single. However, imams generally have a family. The public authorities could therefore intervene, for example by adapting the Cavimac regime. It is also possible to imagine that imams hold an employment contract.

Generally speaking, the different associations – which operate independently or in federations – should reach an agreement. As long as the religious authority does not have a minimum of centralization and has not put in place a status applicable to all imams, the problem will remain unsolved.

The State can finally intervene – and this is what the Minister of the Interior is currently doing – to support religious communities in the creation of a status. This is what he is currently doing within Forif, in the working group on the professionalization of imams. »

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