French court confirms govt decision to shut down Muslim organisations

Conseil d'état. Editorial credit: S. Bonaime / Shutterstock.com

France’s highest administrative court has confirmed a government decision to shut down the nation’s biggest Muslim charity and biggest anti-Islamophobia organisation.

BarakaCity and the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) were closed down at the end of 2020 after the assassination of the teacher Samuel Paty, which neither organisation had any connection with.

Nevertheless, on Friday the Conseil d’Etat ruled in favour of Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin who shortly after the beheading of the teacher accused the two organisations of “inciting hatred” and “Islamist propaganda.”

Darmanin shut them down under the Internal Security Code which makes it possible to dissolve groups which “provoke discrimination, hatred or violence towards a person or a group of people… (and) either propagate ideas or theories tending to justify or encourage this discrimination, this hatred or this violence or even those who engage… in acts with a view to provoking acts of terrorism.”

Idriss Sihamedi, founder of BarakaCity

Responding to the ruling, Darmanin described it as “an important step in the struggle against Islamist ideology.”

On the other hand, both of the targeted organisations denounced the ruling as profoundly Islamophobic.

BarakaCity, which used to have millions of beneficiaries around the world, said: “This decision, which is not a surprise, is consistent with the anxiety-provoking and anti-Islam climate in France… Muslims in France are being subjected to intense media coverage and state institutions are being used to control and diminish our faith…

“A Muslim NGO has been dissolved without ever having been prosecuted or convicted… The message sent to the entire muzzled Muslim community is loud and clear… as Darmanin wished…

“These last months have been rich in lessons, but have also allowed us to broaden our horizons. Important work has been carried out and continues to be carried out. Our future, fortunately, does not depend on a political agenda and our actions will continue. This is also the message we want to send to those who sometimes lose hope. Allah is sufficient and He is undoubtedly the best guarantor. His wisdom is endless, and His plans are the best.”

The CCIF is now the Collective against Islamophobia in Europe

The CCIF, which is a human rights organisation that provides legal support to thousands of people targeted because of their Muslim faith in France every year, said: “This decision, because of its target and its motives, is a major turning point in the institutionalisation of harsh, repressive politics in France.

“We express our deep concern about a decision that paves the way for making ‘opinion’ an offence now prompted by the highest administrative court in France. The grounds put forward by the Council of State’s decision against the CCIF carries out a direct attack on what constitutes the heart of our work as a human rights organisation – advocacy towards governments and institutions.

“The Council of State found after a hearing that lasted no more than 10 minutes that the only and main grievance to be held against the CCIF is its definition of institutional Islamophobia. The grievances alleged by the Ministry of the Interior – in particular that of apology for terrorism – were swept away.

“The CCIF was directly criticised for denouncing Islamophobia among public institutions and the administration. For the Council of State that is enough to constitute incitement to hatred which would go beyond the protection of freedom of expression.”

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