PARIS — France’s President Emmanuel Macron on Friday targeted radical Islam, announcing a plan to call those communities “Islamic separatism” where he said religious laws prevailed over citizens.
Mr Macron said, if the law is passed, it would empower the authorities to close unions and schools that he said inspire children, and monitor foreign investment in religious organizations in France. He said that this would also improve public services in poor suburbs.
France began to ban wearing Islamic clothing such as face coverings in public areas years ago. Since then, the social and economic isolation of French Muslims has deepened.
The groups, which practice radical forms of Islam, Mr. Macron said, were trying to create a parallel society governed by different rules and values than those by the Republic.
Mr. Macron said, “We need Islamic separatism.”
French leaders are under pressure to tighten their stance on radical Islam in France as the 2022 presidential election approaches. His advisers saw Mr Macron as a bill to overtake Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigrant Party National Rally.
France’s sanctions — the working class suburbs that are settled in its major cities — have become fertile recruiting grounds for Islamic groups. France was one of the West’s largest sources of Islamic State militants, when militant groups controlled the swaths of Iraq and northern Syria. Hundreds of French citizens traveled to the Islamic State territory, bringing many children. Others have carried out terrorist attacks in France which have killed more than 250 people in the last five years.
Last week, two people were seriously injured in a knife attack near the former office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The suspect, a Pakistani immigrant, later told police that the magazine had avenged Prophet Muhammad after a cartoon inspired a murderous attack against his employees in 2015, according to France’s antiterrorism prosecutor.
Mr Macron said the government was partially to blame for the growing influence of some religious groups in parts of France. Religious associations are filling a void left by the government in poor suburbs, in which services such as childcare, homework assistance, cultural and sports activities are provided.
Some unions use these activities solely for the promotion of radical Islam, Mr. Macron said. He said that if the bill is passed, home schooling would be severely restricted to prevent children from being enrolled in clumsy religious establishments.
One of the largest Muslim organizations in the country, the Unsur Kbibech, Rassemblement des Musulmans de France, welcomed Mr. Macron’s speech. He said he is concerned, however, that the decision to close a union may be arbitrary.
“It’s a risk,” Mr. Kbibech said.
Mr Macron said the bill does not target France’s entire Muslim community, one of Europe’s largest.
The government has been working on a plan for years to tackle radical Islam. It recently launched pilot programs in 15 different fields.
Since February 2018, it has closed 212 bars and restaurants, 15 mosques or prayer halls, 13 sanghas, 11 children’s homes and four schools.
The authority is now planning to expand the program across the country. The government said it would work closely with the French Council for Muslim Faith, an elected body, with the aim of providing national representation of the Muslim community.
Write Noemie Bisserbe at [email protected]
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