French President Emmanuel Macron has called “radical Islam” a threat to French society. His newly passed law is discriminatory and an intrusion on the rights of the country’s 5.7 million Muslim population. Once in effect, the law permits authorities to do several things such as regulate religious organizations, monitor homeschooling, and crackdown on hate speech; here’s why you need to know about France’s “anti-separatism” bill.
Republican Guard holds a portrait of Samuel Paty during the national memorial event in Paris on October 21, 2020 (Source: AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool)
On October 16th, 2020, Samuel Paty, a French middle-school history teacher, was beheaded by a terrorist in Paris’s suburbs. Paty was targeted online after showing his students the Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons that mocked the Islamic Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression. Tensions escalated between Muslim communities and the French government after French President Emmanuel Macron defended the controversial cartoons stating that they were protected under the French right to free speech and projected them onto government buildings in tribute to Paty’s actions. In Islam, any illustrations of the Prophet are forbidden to avoid the worshiping of idols, and thus, in response, several Muslim countries boycotted French goods and protested against Macron’s actions. Furthermore, Macron stated that radical Islam is the biggest threat to French values and the law for secularism, ultimately declaring Islam as a religion in crisis. Macron’s government has now introduced and passed a law titled “reinforcing republican principles,” which is intended to combat “Islamic terrorism” and integrate France’s Muslim population into the French “culture.”
“Reinforcing republican principles”
“Reinforcing respect for the principles of the Republic” bill
(Source: French National Assembly )
On February 16th, after weeks of debate, France’s National Assembly passed the law, 347-151, with 65 abstentions. As it awaits review by senators, the law contains several changes that are aimed to “strengthen” French secularism.
Online hate speech:
Known as the “Paty Law,” since Samuel Paty was identified through the internet, any individual who shares private information related to someone’s life with the plausible cause of threatening their lives can be imprisoned to three years in jail face a fine of $55,000. If the individual being threatened is a public sector employee or an elected official, imprisonment can be up to five years with a fine of $91,000.
To keep account of children being taught at home, parents will now be required to file a proposal to officials to teach their children at home. The Ministry of Education has the power to reject proposals, and for families that are approved, they will undergo inspection to ensure that the child is getting a proper education. According to Macron, the education of children in religious communities consists mainly of “prayer.”
Religious leaders like Imams have to sign a contract recognizing the Republic’s values. If authorities find any signs of violations, religious organizations like Mosques can have their funding seized. Additionally, all organizations will have to report any foreign contributions worth over $12,000.
Forced marriage, polygamy, and virginity tests:
Virginity tests which French lawmakers have long debated, will be banned. Doctors found to be providing any tests will face a fine of $18,000 and up to one year in prison. Resident permits will not be issued to immigrants practicing polygamy, and any suspicions of forced marriages can be reported to the authorities for an investigation.
The French version of Islam
Macron’s law may not mention Islam specifically, but it was designed to target Islam wholeheartedly. With the banning of hijabs for women under 18, the new laws are manifesting Islamophobia and misogyny. Over the last few years, France has implemented restrictions on Islamic traditions in an attempt to maintain its secular culture and ensure that terrorist attacks no longer happen from “Islamic” extremists. Still, these laws do nothing in protecting the French people’s safety; they only illustrate oppression and discrimination. Undoubtedly, the laws to protect women from forced marriage, polygamy, and virginity tests should be put in place, but the problem is that some of these laws have already existed under French Law. Polygamy was made illegal in France in 1993, and forced marriage has also been made illegal. Virginity tests have yet to be made illegal, but why are they linked to Islam? Culture and religion are two separate entities, but when it comes to Islam, that is repeatedly ignored.
France’s national motto is “liberté, égalité, fraternité,” but that doesn’t apply to the largest population of Muslims living in Europe. Not only is the French law a contradiction to its views, but it is also an attack on human rights and freedoms. Human rights organizations like Amnesty International have argued that several provisions in the law “raise particular concerns regarding France’s obligations to respect the rights to freedom of association and expression and the principle of non-discrimination.”
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