The decision to hold the meeting was announced after the arrest last week of Mehdi Nemmouche, a young French muslim, in connection with the murder of 4 people outside the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
About 50 imams and religious elders attended the Avignon meeting, which was organised by the UMF, a group with particular links to muslims of Moroccan background living in France.
They hope to hold similar meetings in other parts of the country before drawing up a national action plan ready for the autumn.
One idea floated yesterday was to set up places to exchange ideas and train religious leaders to deliver a clear message at Friday prayers. A million muslims attend mosques around France every week, according to UMF president Mohammed Moussaoui.
“If the imam says to them ‘it is your responsibility to … keep watch around you to make sure there are no young people who have lost their way’ [and if] that million people is made aware of the need to be vigilant and monitor what is going on around them, that will almost certainly spare some young people,” said Moussaoui.
He also hopes to enlist sports clubs and other local groups to try to reach youngsters who do not attend mosques.
“Muslims must act to stop this trend which is tarnishing the image of islam and muslims”, said Moussaoui. “We have just got this going, we are aware that we haven’t solved anything but we have taken the first step”.