Emmanuel Macron Photograph:( AFP )
Emmanuel Macron's approach may be unconventional, even uncomfortable for some. But there seems to be no other way to deal with asymmetric assualts and repeated terror attacks
French President Emmanuel Macron wants to introduce uniform civil code in France though he hasn't explicitly used the term. But he has laid out the details. He wants the French constitution to be above religion. He wants all French citizens to be equal before the law.
In December this year, Macron's government wants to table a bill. They want to strengthen an old law. A law made in the year 1905. The law officially separated the Church and the state in France. The law established state secularism in France. They call it Laicite. It was based on two principles
One, the neutrality of the state. And two, the freedom of religious practice. What Macron plans is to amen the second principle. He says people have the right to belong to any faith, but they should not have the right to display religious affiliation in schools or public service.
What will the new law do?
It will increase scrutiny of religious communities, their sources of funding and their association. Simply put, Macron wants to scrutinise Islamic activities in France, and rescue them from radicalism.
"It is this path that we are going to open together, that is to say, we are going to try together to build an organisation that will allow us, I hope & I believe, to build an Islam of Enlightenment in our country, that is to say, an Islam that can be at peace with the French Republic. One which respects all the rules of separation and allows all voices to be pacified. It is not the job of the State to structure Islam, but we must allow & accompany this emergence. Starting by freeing Islam in France from foreign influences," said Macron.
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The message is clear. France will not tolerate foreign funding from Islamic institutes. It will not allow foreign Islamic preachers to influence French Muslims anymore.
Why does France need these new rules?
Because there are fears that a section of French Muslims is being exposed to radical Islam. The dangerous brand of Islam is being imported and financed from abroad. Right now, France is said to have 300 'detached Imams' from abroad. They have no link to the French Republic. They are recruited by French mosques. These are foreigners filling vacancies in France. At least half of them, 150 Imams are said to be from Turkey. They may or may not understand French secularism.
Macron government wants to keep a check on what they are preaching. They should explain why the Turkish President is making so much noise.
The implications of the new French law are not limited to Turkey. They extend to the whole world. Because secular democracies world over are witnessing this clash. The clash between religious law and the constitution. So if France can make the constitution prevail over religion, it sets a precedent. Something that other countries can refer to and follow.
Countries like India. In India, the government is committed to introducing a uniform civil code. One law for all religions. Equal status to all citizens. If a liberal, centrist western leader like Macron can justify a uniform civil code of sorts, so can India. So can countries like Norway and Sweden. They have both sheltered and given citizenship to Muslim immigrants. Now they are struggling.
They are witnessing a cultural conflict, a clash of local laws with religious laws.
Last month, we saw riots after members of a far-right group set a copy of the Quran on Fire. This truly is a clash between Islamophobia and Islamofascism. Can France strike the balance? Can in rein in radicalism without giving in to Xenophobia?
Emmanuel Macron's approach may be unconventional, even uncomfortable for some. But there seems to be no other way to deal with asymmetric assualts and repeated terror attacks. It is time the world acknowledged this, supported Macron instead of playing politics over his law.