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POLITICS

What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

A French bill on preventing radicalisation, completed after the Islamist beheading of teacher Samuel Paty, makes it a crime to intimidate public servants on religious grounds, according to the text unveiled on Wednesday.

What's in France's new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?
French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to crack down on radical Islamist movements in France. Photo: AFP

What is this bill?

The bill is a new legal document planned for a long time by President Emmanuel Macron but reviewed and updated following the gruesome murder of Paty.

A few weeks before Paty's death, Macron had already set out plans to tackle what he called the “Islamist separatism” in poor French neighbourhoods that aimed to create a “counter-society” where Islamic law prevailed.

As examples of the growing sectarianism, he cited children from ultraconservative Muslim families being taken out of school, and sporting and cultural associations being used to indoctrinate young people.

The final draft of the bill called Loi confortant les principes républicains (law confirming republican principles), and does not in its wording address séparatisme as outlined by Macron earlier.

It does not address laïcité (French state secularism) either, a much-debated topic in France in the wake of Paty's death.

ANALYSIS: Why does France's interior minister think supermarket ethnic food isles are a threat to the nation?

It will be presented and examined in cabinet on December 9th, after that it will have to pass through parliament and the Senate before becoming law.

Why is France proposing this bill?

Macron's government has clamped down on radical Islam following the murder and this bill will seek to continue that – the new version of the text specifically targets hateful speech online. 

Pary was the target of a vicious online smear campaign after he showed his students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a class on free speech.

His murder sent shock waves through France, which has been repeatedly targeted by Islamist terrorists since 2015, most of them French citizens.

Paty's name was shared online by the father of one of his students, who labelled the teacher a “thug” in a video calling for his dismissal over the cartoons.

The father also exchanged messages with Paty's killer, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee who travelled over 80 kilometres from his home in Normandy to attack the teacher in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, where he paid some students to point him out.

What is in the bill?

The bill, which was seen by AFP, makes it an offence to share the personal information of a person in a way that allows them to be identified or located by people who want to harm them.

Offenders risk three years in prison and a €45,000 fine.

The draft law also cracks down on online hate speech of the kind suffered by Paty by allowing for suspects to be summarily tried.

It also provides for each child to be given an ID number that would be used to ensure they are attending school.

“We must save our children from the clutches of the Islamists,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told Le Figaro newspaper on Wednesday.

OPINION: The French interior minister is becoming a danger to Macron and France's reputation

Darmanin drafted the bill together with Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti.

 “This law is, 'hands off my teacher, hands off the values of the republic',” Dupond-Moretti told RTL radio.

The bill makes it illegal to intimidate public officials, such as teachers.

NGOs and charities suspected of being infiltrated by radical Islamists are also in the government's sights.

One article provides a judge could ban individuals to enter places of worship “in the event of a conviction for provocation to acts of terrorism or incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence”.

The bill stipulates that any association that seeks public funding must agree to “respect the principles and values of the republic” and return the money if found to have flouted the rules. All foreign donations over €10,000 must be declared.

A new Imam council

This is not in the bill, but as part of the president's combat against radicalisation he has asked the country's Muslim federations to form a national council of imams.

This council will be in charge of proclaiming new imams, changing today's practice where a person can simply take the title without any formal approval.

The council must also draft a charter of “republican values”, which will stipulate that Islam is a religion and not a political movement in France.

 

Member comments

  1. I think the Imam council sounds a very good idea. I’m not Muslim, but I would have thought this would be a measure that ‘moderates’ would welcome- I’m sure they do not want to be associated with Islamic fundamentalists that can do so much harm. My understanding is that other faiths have a structure that approve and guide their ‘instructors’. I firmly believe that the vast majority of non -Muslims do not have any issues and want to live quietly along side people of the Muslim faith. People come to live in France for a peaceful, free and democratic life. The problem is with those that have hate in their hearts and want to harm others- to destroy the french way of life. We don’t all agree on a great many things- and there is nothing wrong with that. We need to be united and work together to maintain that way of life that gives us so much- before it’s ruined beyond redemption.

  2. When I was at school in the sixties, I seem to remember that in France you had to choose a name for any new-born child from an approved list, with the result that those in Brittany in particular who were not given an approved name were in some ways outcasts from French society, which at the time included not being eligible for the short period of military service which was then compulsory.

    If this directive has not ben changed does that not automatically put all Muslim children at a disadvantage?

  3. When I was at school in the sixties, I seem to remember that in France you had to choose a name for any new-born child from an approved list, with the result that those in Brittany in particular who were not given an approved name were in some ways outcasts from French society, which at the time included not being eligible for the short period of military service which was then compulsory.

    If this directive has not ben changed does that not automatically put all Muslim children at a disadvantage?

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POLITICS

Mayor of southern French town bans smoking in cars

The mayor of a town in southern France has banned smoking in cars in an attempt to limit forest fires - many of which are caused by carelessly discarded cigarette butts.

Mayor of southern French town bans smoking in cars

With France facing a hot, dry summer, some areas have already been hit by wildfires, while many others in the south of the country are on a high alert.

One of the major causes of the devastating fires is carelessly discarded cigarette butts, so the mayor of the commune of Langlade in the Gard département in south east France, has enacted a special decree banning smoking.

Smoking will be banned in a number of outdoor spaces that do not have facilities, including the town’s soccer stadium, shooting range, archery range, tennis courts – and also bans drivers from smoking in their cars. The decree is in force through the whole of the commune of Langlade.

The decree runs until July 31st and offenders risk a €15 fine – although local authorities told the Gazette de Nîmes that their main priority is raising awareness of the risk of fire from smoking, rather than handing out fines.

The Gard département has already been hit by a wildfire that destroyed several hundred acres, and firefighters have warned that the south of the country is ‘like a tinderbox’ because of the unusually early heatwave and drought that has left land parched.

READ ALSO What to do if you see a wildfire

In France smoking is banned in enclosed public spaces, but is legal in outdoor spaces such as open-air sports grounds and on the outdoor terraces of bars and cafés.

Smoking in a private vehicle is legal, as long as there are no young children in the car. Smoking while driving is not explicitly banned, but drivers can be fined if they are not in proper control of the vehicle.

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