French parliament passes law which critics say will deprive Muslims of rights

French National Assembly

The French Parliament has adopted a controversial “separatism law” which is being widely seen as giving the authorities more power to confront “radical Islam.”

The text titled “Respect for the principles of the Republic” offers solutions to the so-called “Islamist takeover bid” and was validated by 49 votes in favour, 19 against and five abstentions.

The government argued the legislation was needed to bolster France’s secular system, but critics say it breaches religious freedom and especially the freedom and rights of Muslims..

Introduced by hardline French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, the bill contains measures on the neutrality of the civil service, the fight against online hatred, and the protection of civil servants such as teachers.

But critics say that it must be seen in the context of President Macron tack to the right ahead of his 2022 presidential re-election battle against the far-right Marine Le Pen.

Advocacy group CAGE said the Anti-Separatism bill builds on the lesser known Systematic Obstruction policy which has seen thousands of Muslim establishments placed on blacklists and mosques and businesses shut down. This is in addition to tens of millions of Euros seized from Muslims.

CAGE Managing Director Muhammad Rabbani said: “The French state leads what can only be described as an Islamophobic persecution of its Muslim citizens. The passing of the Islamophobic Anti-Separatism Bill will strengthen and entrench the pre-existing systemtic obstruction policy against Muslims in France.”

And the Coordination Contre la Loi Séparatisme, which opposes the law, said: “This is indeed a dangerous step towards bringing Muslims in line with their religious, social, cultural and political expressions, while reducing their access to a number of rights.

‘It thus strengthens the authoritarianism of the state, which can legally use all of its administrative, police and judicial resources against any form of organisation of worship and association of Muslims. And it creates de facto a group subject to a genuine regime of exception based on suspicion, control, intimidation and repression.”

French Muslim activist Marwan Muhammad added: “The government has now a whole range of instruments to dissolve associations, dictate how Muslims should organise and who they should pray behind. So much for “laïcité (secularism).”

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