President Emmanuel Macron unveils controversial plan aimed to strengthen a 1905 law that officially separated church and state in his country in a new drive to push religion out of education and the public sector in France.
French President Emmanuel Macron has unveiled a plan to defend his country's "secular" values against what he said was "Islamist radicalism," describing Islam as a religion "in crisis" all over the world.
In a long-awaited address, Macron insisted "no concessions" would be made in a new drive to push religion out of education and the public sector in France.
"Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today, we are not just seeing this in our country," he said.
He announced that the government would present a bill in December to strengthen a 1905 law that officially separated church and state in France.
Macron coined the term "separatism" to describe the underworld that thrives in some neighbourhoods around France where he said Muslims with a "radical" vision of their religion are trying to take control of the local population to inculcate beliefs.
No sense in stigmatising all believers
The measures, Macron said, were aimed at addressing the problem of growing "Islamic radicalisation" in France and improving "our ability to live together."
"Secularism is the cement of a united France," he insisted but added that there was no sense in stigmatising all Muslim believers.
The law permits people to belong to any faith of their choosing, Macron said, but outward displays of religious affiliation can under no circumstances be allowed in schools or the public service.
He announced that France would seek to "liberate" Islam in France from foreign influences by improving oversight of the financing of mosques.
There would also be closer scrutiny of schools and associations exclusively serving religious communities.
#France's #Macron courted a new controversy today after saying: "#Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today, we are not just seeing this in our country." His Islamophobic sentiments, however, are not new. Read our paper: https://t.co/e5QsWEghPa pic.twitter.com/xBO29tqRrS— TRT World Research Centre (@TRTWorldRC) October 2, 2020
Parliament to debate law next year
Friday's speech comes while a trial is under way in Paris over the deadly January 2015 attacks on the notorious magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket.
Last week, a man from Pakistan stabbed two people near Charlie Hebdo's former offices in anger over its publication of "caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad."
It took Macron a few years but now he speaks openly in essentialist, Orientalist terms about “Islam”. Of course, those who’ve followed his exploits in the Balkans long ago recognized his explicitly xenophobic streak. Woe unto the EU if this was its great liberal savior. https://t.co/HS5tuazzGS— Jasmin Mujanović (@JasminMuj) October 2, 2020
In January, a renewed debate about freedom of expression erupted when a teenager received death threats for attacking Islam in an expletive-laden Instagram rant.
And earlier this month, divisions were highlighted when MPs walked out when a university student entered parliament in a headscarf.
The law is expected to go before parliament for debate in the first part of next year.