Thursday, January 20, 2005

French army to recruit Muslim clerics

Expatica - Living in, moving to, or working in France, plus French news in English: "French army to recruit Muslim clerics

PARIS, Jan 20 (AFP) - The French armed forces are to create an Islamic chaplaincy to cater to the spiritual needs of Muslim recruits, Le Monde newspaper reported Thursday.

A serving officer - Lieutenant Colonel Hait Al Hocine - was appointed earlier this week to examine how the body should be set up and is due to present his report by the end of June, the newspaper said.

It would be the first time that Muslim clerics are given an official position in the armed services. Today only Catholic, Jewish and Protestant chaplaincies exist.

Large numbers of France's five-million strong Muslim community are believed to have signed up to the armed forces recently, but because of France's official
blindness on colour, race and religion there are no figures.

Le Monde said the decision to appoint Muslim chaplains had not been taken in response to an observed demand from Muslim serving men and women.

'Nothing suggests there is a need (for a Muslim chaplaincy) at the moment, but we do not want to have to improvise one if the need did arise,' a defence ministry official told the paper.

'We are going to set up a framework in which it will be possible to practice the Muslim religion - but we don't even know if we will find candidates for the job of chaplain,' he said.

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