BBC: Dozens of prominent French Muslims and Prime Minister Manuel Valls have called for a national drive to promote mainstream Islam and combat the radicalisation of young Muslims.
They issued separate appeals in the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper, as France remains in shock from the murder of a priest by Islamist extremists last week.
The 41 prominent Muslims and Mr Valls said a French Muslim foundation set up in 2005 must be relaunched.
Mr Valls’s stance drew some criticism.
Two politicians in the right-wing opposition party The Republicans – Eric Ciotti and Christian Estrosi – accused Mr Valls of hypocrisy for failing to prevent the opening of a Saudi-funded mosque in Nice.
Mr Valls was booed at a commemoration in Nice on 18 July for the 84 people killed by a lorry which ploughed into a holiday crowd on the city’s beachfront promenade. The Tunisian driver is believed to have been inspired by so-called Islamic State (IS).
There is widespread concern in Europe about the influence of Saudi Arabia’s ultra-conservative Wahhabi version of Islam.
‘Pact with Islam’
In his appeal in JDD (in French), Mr Valls said the French state must avoid “any paternalism” towards Islam, but “there is an urgent need to help Islam in France to rid itself of those who are undermining it from the inside”.
“To do that, we have a duty to build a real pact with Islam in France, and give the foundation a central role.”
He did not give details of what the foundation’s role would be or how it would interact with mosques.
Mr Valls, a Socialist, warned that “if Islam doesn’t help the Republic to fight those who challenge public freedoms, it will get harder for the Republic to guarantee this freedom of worship”.
Separately, 41 prominent French Muslims issued a joint statement in JDD saying “we must speak up now because Islam has become a public issue and the current situation is intolerable”.
The signatories included former ministerial advisers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, scientists and academics.
They deplored the spate of attacks by jihadists in France, including those in Paris last year, the Nice attack and the murder of an elderly priest in a church in a Rouen suburb.
“We Muslims were silent before because we understood that in France religion is a private matter,” they said – a reference to the French state’s strict secular policy.
“A Foundation for Islam in France was set up more than 10 years ago and now it is time to reactivate it,” they said. “It has never worked properly… but now it should be empowered to collect donations.”
They called for “a cultural battle against radical Islamism among the youth”. It should include transparent funding of mosques, proper training and salaries for imams and theological work, they said.
In 2004 the French government said the country’s imams must all learn French and widen their education because, it argued, a majority of them were from outside France.
On Sunday two men were arrested over the murder of Father Jacques Hamel, 86, during a church service.
Farid K, 30, a cousin of attacker Abdel Malik Petitjean, was arrested on suspicion of “terrorist association”.
The other man, Jean-Philippe Steven J, 20, was put under formal investigation for allegedly attempting to travel to Syria in June with Petitjean.
Petitjean and accomplice Adel Kermiche, both 19, were shot dead by police.