The government of President Emmanuel Macron has cracked down on what it calls “radical Islam” following the murder of Samuel Paty, who was the target of a vicious online smear campaign for showing his students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a course on free speech. Many Muslims believe that any portrayal of the Prophet is blasphemous.
The teacher’s murder sent shock waves through France, which has been hit by several attacks since 2015, mostly carried out by French citizens.
Paty’s name was shared online by the father of one of his students, who called the teacher a “thug” in a video calling for his dismissal over the cartoons.
The father also exchanged messages with the killer of Paty, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee who traveled more than 80 km from his home in Normandy to attack the teacher in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
Macron pledged that France “would not stop drawing caricatures”, drawing strong criticism from leaders of the Muslim world and protests in a number of countries. The Pakistani government summoned the French ambassador to register a protest against the French president’s remarks.
Just weeks before Paty’s death, Macron had made plans to tackle what he called “Islamist separatism” in poor French neighborhoods which aimed to create a “counter-society” where Islamic law would prevail. .
‘Hands of my teacher’
The bill drafted by the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin and the Minister of Justice Eric Dupond-Moretti provides that each child is assigned an identification number which would serve to guarantee his education.
“We must save our children from the clutches of the Islamists,” Darmanin told Le Figaro on Wednesday.
The bill also clamps down on online hate speech of the kind Paty suffers from by allowing suspects to be summarily tried.
“This law is,” drop my teacher, forget the values of the republic, “” Dupond-Moretti told RTL radio.
But French human and civil rights activist Yasser Louati said he doubted the bill was meant to protect citizens, arguing it was more about protecting policymakers from criticism and online mobilization. against their policies.
Louati said passing new laws was not a solution, given that laws already exist to tackle online harassment and hate speech.
“The problem with Emmanuel Macron is that whenever there is a social problem, they propose new laws,” Louati told Al Jazeera.
“I doubt they are applying it to protect the ordinary citizen, let alone the everyday Muslim, or a Muslim woman who is harassed online.”
Following several attacks, France has also started closing mosques and is cracking down on organizations it suspects of spreading hatred. However, there are fears of collective punishment and growing Islamophobia.
The new bill states that any association seeking public funding must agree to “respect the principles and values of the republic” and return the money if it broke the rules.