PARIS (Reuters) – The French government decided on Wednesday to move forward with a law it said would crack down on practices contrary to the French republic’s values, such as forced marriage and virginity tests, although opponents say it may alienate some Muslims.
Prime Minister Jean Castex told journalists that the law would give the authorities the tools to “fight against political and ideological enterprises which go against our values … and our sovereignty and sometimes go as far as criminal acts” .
The cabinet officially backed the bill on Wednesday, allowing it to move forward to the lower house of parliament, where the government and its allies control a majority of seats.
The debate over the law has grown more intense since the beheading on October 16 of schoolteacher Samuel Paty by a man who said he wanted to punish the teacher for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class of civic education on freedom of expression.
In the days leading up to the murder, some people shared angry posts on social media about the teacher.
French officials say it is no longer enough to control acts of violence and that it is also necessary to punish behavior that they say is not explicitly criminal but is at odds with the values of the French state.
The bill includes tougher measures against online apologists for acts of violence, the risk of deportation of foreign nationals with multiple wives, and checks on whoever educates their child outside of regular schools.
Officials deny that the proposed law targets Islam or Muslims.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left-wing opposition La France Insoumise, said: “We do not accept the stigmatization of Muslims in this project.”
He said the government “was riding a kind of wave of hostility towards Muslims in order to wave its arms.”