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Macron lays out measures to crackdown on ‘separatist’ Islam in France

President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a plan Friday to defend France's secular values against radical Islam, announcing stricter oversight of schooling and better control over foreign funding of mosques.

Macron lays out measures to crackdown on 'separatist' Islam in France
French president Emmanuel Macron intends to preset a bill to parliament in December. Photo: AFP

Describing Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide, Macron insisted that “no concessions” would be made in a new drive to eradicate extremist religious teaching in schools and mosques.

At the same time, Macron said France must do more to offer economic and social mobility to immigrant communities, adding radicals had often filled the vacuum.

His long-awaited address came 18 months before presidential elections where Macron is set to face a challenge from the right, as public concern grows over security in France.

“Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today, we are not just seeing this in our country,” Macron said in Les Mureaux, a town outside Paris with a historically large immigrant population.

He said extremists were seeking to indoctrinate new converts across the country, which has one of the largest Muslim populations in Europe.

He denounced a trend of “Islamist separatism” that flouts French rules and seeks to create a “counter-society” holding its own laws above all others.

This form of sectarianism often translates into children being kept out of school, and the use of sporting, cultural and other community activities as a “pretext to teach principles that do not conform to the laws of the republic,” Macron said.

He said the government would present a bill in December that would strengthen the country's bedrock 1905 law that officially separated church and state.

'Liberate' French Islam

Among the new law's provisions, there will be closer scrutiny of the curriculum at private schools and stricter limits on home-schooling for reasons other than a child's health problems.

Community associations that receive state subsidies will have to sign a contract avowing their commitment to secularism and the values of France.

There will be closer scrutiny of such organisations, and the law will make it easier to shutter those breaking anti-indoctrination rules.

The new measures will also include a ban on the wearing of religious symbols for employees of subcontractors providing public services, such as transport operators.

The rule already applies to public servants.

Macron said there had been increased reports of abuses by sub-contracting staff, including bus drivers refusing women entry for wearing clothing considered too revealing.

He emphasised that it was necessary to “liberate Islam in France from foreign influences,” naming countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

To this end, the government will step up checks on foreign financing of mosques and clamp down on letting imams go abroad for training, or on hosting foreign preachers on French soil.

'Ghettoisation'

Macron stressed that the measures did not seek to stigmatise or alienate France's Muslims but to bolster “our ability to live together.”

He urged better understanding of Islam and said the problem of radicalisation was partly a product of the “ghettoisation” of French cities and towns where “we constructed our own separatism.”

“We have concentrated populations based on their origins, we have not sufficiently created diversity, or ensured economic and social mobility” in segregated areas, he said.

Radical Islamists have swooped in, taking advantage of “our withdrawal, our cowardice,” he added.

France has in recent years been forced to take a hard look at its core republican values, perceived by many to be threatened by Islam in the wake of several terror attacks since 2015 targeting secular liberties such as freedom of expression.

Macron was speaking one week after a man wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside the former Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly, which the government denounced as “Islamist terrorism.”

Staff at Charlie Hebdo were massacred in January 2015 by Islamist gunmen seeking to avenge its publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

In January, a renewed debate about freedom of expression erupted when a teenager received death threats for attacking Islam in an expletive-laden Instagram rant.

And earlier this month, divisions were highlighted when MPs walked out when a university student entered parliament in a headscarf.

Member comments

  1. I’m not particularly bothered with Macron, to be honest. But whatever strict law he decides to impose on these disgusting islamic extremists, would be greatly welcomed.

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HEALTH

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.

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