French Presidential Candidate Meets Muslim Leaders

PARIS – Independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, who was at the top of a recent poll, reached out to the Muslim community for solutions, stressing that France’s secular traditions should not be used to target Muslims.

With three days until Sunday’s first round of the presidential election, Macron met with Anouar Kbibech, head of the French Muslim federation CFCM on Wednesday, April 19.

After his meeting, Macron issued a statement insisting on the importance of respecting France’s secular traditions, but saying those shouldn’t be used to target Muslims.

French Muslims complain about being unfairly targeted by French laws banning hijab in schools and full-face veils in public.

During the discussion with the leaders of the CFCM, Macron reiterated the absolute necessity to fight effectively against terrorism, which does not differentiate between the French.

In this struggle against extremism, the Muslim community and the state stand on a common front, he added,

“The challenge is to improve the training of imams so that besides their strictly religious mission, they know better the history and the values of the Republic,” the statement reads.

Macron expressed his wish that the Muslim community should continue its internal organizational efforts to build an open, contemporary Islam.

Meanwhile, the Grand Mosque of Lyon issued an appeal urging Muslims to cast ballots instead of isolating themselves, “so that all the children of France, regardless of their skin color, their origins or their religion, are fully involved in the future of their country.”

Macron is a 39-year old socialist politician, senior civil servant, and former investment banker.

He studied Philosophy at Paris Nanterre University, and graduated from the École nationale d’administration (ENA). Later he became an Inspector of Finances in the Inspectorate General of Finances (IGF).

In 2014, François Hollande appointed him to be the Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs for two years, then in 2016 he established his socialist centrist liberal party En Marche (EM).

His program is based upon economic reforms and pro-European cooperation.

According to academic Vincent Geisser, who gave a conference to decrypt the presidential election, Muslims would form an electoral body of 2 million citizens, or 5 percent of the voters.

With four candidates neck-to-neck in the polls, the outcome of the poll could shift in the event of a concentrated vote on a candidate.