French lawmakers approve bill to battle Islamist extremism

WION Web Team
Paris, France Published: Feb 16, 2021, 11:23 PM(IST)

A file photo of French President Emmanuel Macron. Photograph:( AFP )

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President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party rallied around the legislation, with 347 National Assembly lawmakers voting in favour, 151 against and 65 abstaining

France's lower house of parliament approved on Tuesday a law to fight extremism and 'Islamist separatism' that the government bills as a riposte to religious groups attempting to undermine France's secular traditions.  

President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party rallied around the legislation, with 347 National Assembly lawmakers voting in favour, 151 against and 65 abstaining.  

With an eye on 2022 elections, President Emmanuel Macron has championed the bill, which seeks to tighten rules on issues ranging from religious teaching, online hate to polygamy. 

It has been debated in a highly charged atmosphere in France after three attacks late last year by extremists including the beheading in October of teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. 

The law is dubbed the anti-separatism bill as ministers fear Islamists are creating communities that reject France's secular identity and laws, as well as its values, such as equality between the sexes. 

Also read: Macron's new anti-extremism bill sparks fresh protests in France

France, home to Europe's largest Muslim community, is still shaken by the succession of massacres committed by Islamist militants from January 2015 that left hundreds dead. 

The National Assembly lower house voted on the legislation after a total of 135 hours of debates that saw some 313 amendments adopted.  

The upper house Senate will also examine the draft legislation in the coming months and could amend it. If that it is the case, the bill will then go back to the National Assembly for a final reading. 

Also read: France recommends single vaccine dose for people who have had Covid

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said after the final debate on Saturday that the bill "provides concrete responses to... the development of radical Islam, an ideology hostile to the principles and values on which the Republic is founded." 

Paty's killing prompted the inclusion of the specific crimes of online hate speech and divulging personal information on the internet that could be used to harm someone. 

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