Is France punishing activists for having condemned the repression of Muslims?

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The president of the NGO BarakaCity, Idriss Sihamedi, was arrested by armed officers during a raid broadcast online on Wednesday. Sihamedi had criticized President Macron’s recent comments on alleged “Islamic separatism”.

French Muslims are in turmoil after armed police targeted a critic of President Emmanuel Macron in a raid that was broadcast live on the internet.

Idriss Sihamedi, the founder and president of the NGO BarakaCity, said he was beaten and forcibly held by police officers who pressed their heads to the ground during the raid on his home on Wednesday.

A member of the group, which runs charity projects in France and abroad, broadcast the scenes, showing broken surveillance equipment, overturned furniture and documents strewn on the ground.

According to BarakaCity, the police prevented Sihamedi’s wife from dressing their four-year-old who was sleeping covered only in her blanket. When she did so anyway, she was insulted by officers who held her in handcuffs.

Armed police officers also forced the couple’s other three children to keep their hands up, the NGO said.

Supporters described the raid as an act of ‘intimidation’ and a violation of freedom of speech but while officials gave no explanation for the raid, Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin accused Sihamedi of “forgiving terrorism” in a since-deleted tweet.

Darmanin did not provide any evidence to support this claim.

Until the raid, Sihamedi had vehemently criticized Macron’s plans to suppress the practice of Islam.

In a number of speeches and statements made over the past few months, the French president has asserted that Islam is in “crisis” across the world and has pledged to introduce crackdowns against what it is. describes it as “Islamic separatism”.

While previous French leaders implemented measures targeting Muslims, such as banning students from wearing headscarves at school and banning face coverings, none in the modern era has directly criticized Islam as a religion.

Macron and Islam

Even before Macron declared the alleged “crisis” within Islam, France was cracking down on its Muslims.

Interior Minister Darmanin revealed that French authorities had closed 73 Muslim establishments, including mosques, schools, shops and cafes since the start of 2020.

The government claims that these establishments either did not have the proper authorization or that they encouraged “extremism”. French Muslims, however, retort that the French definition of extremism is so broad that virtually any Muslim entity can fall within its scope.

Those responding to the raid on Sihamedi’s residence said the country was witnessing the start of a “witch hunt” targeting Muslims.

Hashtags popped up on Twitter to announce their support for Sihamedi and BarakaCity, with some activists calling for protests outside police stations on Thursday.

Macron’s push against the country’s Muslim community comes as polls put him shoulder to shoulder with Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Rassemblement National party formerly known as the National Front.

Le Pen built his popularity around the promise to suppress the Muslim presence in France.

Given Macron’s inability to repair the French economy, the current campaign against the Muslim community may be about setting his benchmarks on what will likely be the key issue in the 2022 election.

Source: TRT World



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