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President Emmanuel Macron has presented new proposals which he says aim to fight against organizations and individuals that threaten the unity and secular values of the French Republic, foremost among them: radical Islam.
“Secularism is the glue of a united France,” Macron said on Friday in a long-awaited speech. “Our challenge is to fight against those who derail in the name of religion, while protecting those who believe in Islam and are full citizens of the Republic.
Macron tried to counter accusations he was lenient on crime, including militant Islam – topics becoming so important ahead of next year’s local elections that he skipped a meeting of Union leaders European Union to make the speech. AA recent survey by Odoxa pollsters showed that the majority of voters support his proposed anti-separatism law.
To underline his words, Macron chose to speak in Les Mureaux, a sprawling suburb northwest of Paris plagued by social and economic problems, where a police officer was shot dead in a wave of extremist violence in 2015 and 2016.
The French state is partly responsible for the “ghettoization” of communities where radical Islamists have established themselves because it has not paid them enough attention, he said. “Where we have moved away, they have stepped in.” The colonial history of France, for its part, left scars that have never healed.
Throughout the speech, Macron sought to assure Muslims that he was not targeting Islam, saying things like, let’s not fall into the trap set by extremists “who aim to stigmatize all Muslims.”
He also referred to the 1905 Secularism Act which allows people to belong to any religion they choose, but he said obvious manifestations of any religious affiliation will not be tolerated in schools or in the community. public function.
And when his attention was drawn to an accusation un tweet by far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon during a question-and-answer session on the fact that it was anti-Muslim speech, Macron said: “I don’t feel my speech was against Muslims, on the contrary.
Yet the president painted a grim picture of the state of Islam, saying it was “in crisis, including in countries where it is a majority religion”.
“We must help this religion to organize itself so that it is a partner of the Republic,” Macron said. “We must build an Enlightenment Islam,” he added, referring to the philosophical movement that promoted the separation of Church and State.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy had similar ambitions to “reorganize Islam”, and Macron said there was a need to continue trying to “defend the republic and its values and ensure that it delivers on its promises. equality and emancipation ”.
“I don’t think we need a French form of Islam,” he said. “We must free Islam in France from its foreign influences.”
The comments risk alienating France’s large Muslim population, many of whom feel singled out by measures such as the ban on the veil in public schools. A large number of people who responded to the Odoxa poll said they feared the new measures would worsen the fractures in French society.
Key Muslim figures have criticized the proposals. Chems-eddine Hafiz, rector of the Paris mosque, described them as “gadgets” ineditorial in Le Monde newspaper, and called for collective action rather than a “communication coup” before the elections. Amar Lasfar, the rector of the Lille-Sud mosque,said much of what Macron described “falls outside the purview of the state.”
Macron thanked the ministers for their help in crafting the proposals, including Gerald Darmanin, a conservative close to Sarkozy who was appointed interior minister in July. A bill will be unveiled in mid-October but it is unlikely to have sweeping effects before the 2022 presidential election.
Macron said the bill would also allow:
- Facilitate state intervention when officials show signs of radicalization
- Strengthen controls and dry up the funding of organizations that promote radicalism under the guise of sport or leisure
- Make school compulsory from the age of three and ban homeschooling to prevent the formation of Islamic schools, although children with health problems are exempted
- Focus on monitoring language schools
- Create a certification for French imams
- Monitor the funding of religious groups in foreign countries and prohibit projects “incompatible with the values of the Republic”
- Set aside 10 million euros to support high-level Islamic studies and create a scientific institute of Islamology
(Updates with quotes, context throughout.)