Debates on the controversial new “anti-separatism” bill, aimed to combat religious extremism, have kicked off at the French lower house National Assembly, the Daily Mail newspaper reported, adding that heated discussions are expected to last for the next two weeks.
According to the newspaper, the French left-wing fears the proposed legislation, dubbed the anti-separatism bill, will harm Muslims in France, while right-wing politicians, on the contrary, argue that it fails to cover major issues.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, one of the strongest supporters of the bill, touted it as legislation that fights against what he called “the Islamist takeover bid”.
According to Darmanin, France is “sick from separatism, above all Islamism which is damaging our national unity.” “You have to know what to call the disease, you have to find the medicine. This text does not fight religions but the Islamist takeover bid,” he added.
The minister is also the author of a book called “Manifesto for Secularism,” to be published within days, in which he elaborates on the values the draft law is designed to protect.
“Islamism is a Trojan horse hiding the fragmentation bomb of our society,” Darmanin writes in the book, according to excerpts leaked by Le Figaro. “In the face of such a dangerous and insidious enemy, which we know is far from the religion of the prophet (of Islam), it is normal that public officials take unprecedented measures.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said that the authorities would present the draft legislation against extremism in December last year and called for limiting foreign influence on Islam in France, which was pushed through following a series of religiously-motivated assaults in the country. The attacks included the brutal beheading of a French history teacher in Paris outskirts at the hands of a radicalized teenager, and another major assault in the city of Nice when a terrorist stabbed three people in a local cathedral with a knife.
What Does the Bill Propose?
Consisting of 51 articles, the bill encourages mosques to register as places of worship, while many currently operate as associations, and requires a declaration of funding if it exceeds $12,000, in a bid not to allow foreign influence on mosques.
Other articles of the bill target polygamy and forced marriages, and the practice of providing women with virginity certificates. In the latter case, doctors would be fined for conducting virginity tests on girls.
The draft bill also targets the so-called “clandestine schools”, where children could be exposed to religious indoctrination, and requires all children from age 3 to attend a regular school.
According to Prime Minister Jean Castex, the bill “is not a text against religions or against the Muslim religion in particular. It is, on the contrary, a law of freedom, a law of protection, it is a law of liberation from religious fundamentalism.”
Macron Vows to Crack Down on 'Radical Islam'
In the wake of religiously-motivated attacks, French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to implement necessary measures to curb what he called Islamic separatism, including boosting security in the country, and uprooting the sources of extremism through closures of related associations.
The recent Islamist attacks in France followed a reprint of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in September 2020. The first major attack in October 2020 targeted teacher Samuel Paty, who showed religious caricatures depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad to his students as part of freedom of speech discussion, prompting outrage among their Muslim parents. The original caricatures were first published in the Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2012. Three years later, on January 7, 2015, 12 people were killed and many more injured in the infamous attack on the Charlie Hebdo office.
We will not give in, ever.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) October 25, 2020
We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values.
Macron's pledge to get tougher on "radical Islam" triggered a wave of criticism from a number of Muslim majority countries. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been at odds with his French counterpart, who has defended the right to show caricatures of Prophet Muhammad and raised concerns about a "crisis" in Islam following a string of Islamist attacks in France. The Turkish leader said Macron should check his mental health over his obsession with Muslims and accused the French leader of infringing on the freedom of religion, which prompted Paris to recall its ambassador from Ankara.
Focusing on the issue of Islamophobia, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said that European leaders needed to find the right balance between respecting religion and the preservation of other freedoms; referring to the controversy in France following the publication of caricatures published by Charlie Hebdo.