France has officially unveiled its draft policy against “Islamist radicalism”.
The bill follows the recent terror attacks in the country, including the beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty for showing cartoons of Prophet Mohammed to his students during a lesson on freedom of expression.
The legislation contains over 50 provisions to fight separatism that violates the egalitarian values of the French republic and gives rise to terrorist ideology. Since 2012, over 260 people have lost their lives in the European country to Islamist terror attacks.
President Emmanuel Macron said the bill, titled Supporting Republican Principles, is a way to root out “separatists” undermining the nation.
The legislation abolishes, among other things, virginity certificates, tightly controls home schooling and bans public-sector employees from wearing religious clothing in the workplace.
It also mandates civic associations that violate French values to profess commitment to “republican principles” if they wish to receive government subsidies.
One of the articles of the bill makes schooling compulsory since the age of three, allowing homeschooling only in special cases. The move aims to end the so-called clandestine schools run by fundamentalists with their “own agenda”.
Another article urges mosques to register as places of worship. Majority of the country’s 2,600 mosques, which also run Quranic schools, currently operate under rules for associations.
A judge can forbid anyone convicted of provoking terrorism, discrimination, hate or violence from visiting mosques.
Stressing the bill “is not a text against religions or against the Muslim religion in particular”, Prime Minister Jean Castex called it “a bill of freedom, a bill of protection, a bill of emancipation from Islamist fundamentalism or other ideologies pursuing the same goals”.
Macron had in October outlined plans to defend the country’s secular values against Islamist radicalism. Describing the religion “in crisis” all over the world, he had insisted “no concession” would be made in a new drive to push religion out of education and the public sector in the country.
Castex said the draft bill overhauls the country’s 1905 law separating church and state, in order to “modernise and clarify matters of faith”. “Changes in morals, practices and threats make modifications necessary to the secularism law and an older 1901 law governing associations,” he said.
Clarifying the draft bill doesn’t target Muslims, he explained: “Separatism is especially dangerous because it is the manifestation of a conscious, theorised, political-religious project with an ambition to make religious norms predominate over the law. France intends to defend itself.”
The step comes ahead of the 2022 presidential poll, when Macron is eyeing for a re-election.