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

New DelhiEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Feb 16, 2021, 09:35 AM IST
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Protesters demonstrate against a bill dubbed as "anti-separatism", in Paris Photograph:(AFP)

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President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government argues that the anti-extremism bill is needed to protect French values like gender equality and secularism

Dozens of activists rallied in Paris on Sunday demanding the French government to abandon the anti-extremism bill aimed at rooting out Islamist radicalism.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government argues that the anti-extremism bill is needed to protect French values like gender equality and secularism.

Scrubbing France clean of radicals and their breeding grounds is a priority for President Emmanuel Macron in a nation bloodied by terror attacks, including the beheading of a teacher outside his school in a Paris suburb in October, followed by a deadly attack inside the basilica in Nice.


The proposed legislation is intended to re-anchor secularism in a changing France, where Muslims are increasingly visible and Islam the nation's No. 2 religion is gaining a stronger voice.

It is a response to a series of jihadist terror attacks in France that have killed more than 250 people since 2015.

The legislation, expected to pass Tuesday's vote in the lower house of parliament, will also expand the crackdown.

Along with the bill, contested by some Muslims, politicians and others, such strong-arm inspections risk accentuating the climate of suspicion many Muslims feel in a country where the vast majority of Muslims don't hold extremist views.

According to Nagib Azergui, founder of the Union of the French Muslim Democrats (UDMF), "This bill tends to criminalize, or at least render suspicious, all Muslim citizens due to their practice, which makes it a law of exception inside the Republic.''

The draft bill was introduced in December 2020 after a string of Islamist terror attacks across France.

The purpose of the bill is to arm France against radicalism. It targets home schools mosques and associations that promulgate an ideology running contrary to French values.

It will clamp down on home-schooling of children that are over three years of age, punish doctors who provide virginity certificates to Muslim women, make hate speech a punishable offence with 3 years of imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros, refuse residence permits for immigrants practising polygamy, increase penalties or simply shut down places of worship found peddling hate, prohibit religious symbols like the hijab in all public and private-sector jobs and control the foreign funding of Islamic institutes and associations in France.

France has suffered due to Islamic extremism more than any European country and it needs to take tough measures to rein in radicals.

At the same time, it must ensure that progressive french Muslims do not become collateral damage.

In an election year, President Macron must get the balance right. His bill and its implementation may well provide a playbook to the west on dealing with radicalism.