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

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
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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 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?

  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. 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.

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