France – On a wooded hillside in deepest rural Burgundy sits a modest
19th-century chateau with a daunting mission: the training of imams to
minister to the Muslims of Europe.
Here, for $3,200 a year, about 150 French and foreign students study and
live in a damp, dilapidated former corporate summer resort with a tiny
library, few computers, no television and no cellphone reception.
The goal of the European Institute for Human Sciences, as the coeducational
school is known, is an urgent one shared by political leaders and
intelligence and law enforcement authorities across the Continent.
They believe that the growing Muslim population of Europe must stanch the
migration of Muslim clerics who often are self-appointed, unfamiliar with
the West, beholden to foreign interests and in the most extreme cases, full
of hate and capable of terrorist acts. To that end, they say, a homegrown
breed of imams must be created.
“We are here to create modern imams who will respond to the needs of our
Muslims in France and in Europe,” said Zuhair Mahmood, the Iraqi-born
director of the school who trained as a nuclear scientist and helped found
it 12 years ago. “We need more mosques for the faithful and that means more
The perceived threat is so great that a number of European governments
closely monitor the activities and sermons of their Muslim clerics..