A landmark report details the sweeping executive powers that have led to Muslim civil society being systematically monitored, investigated and sanctioned by the French state.
The French government’s anti-Muslim hatred has reached the threshold of persecution under international law, a scathing new report finds.
Published by CAGE, an independent advocacy organisation, the report highlights the unprecedented crackdown on Muslims in France under the sweeping ‘Systematic Obstruction’ powers, exactly four years since its application.
Authored by French legal jurist and CAGE researcher Rayan Freschi, the report titled ‘We are beginning to spread Terror: The state-sponsored persecution of Muslims in France’ outlines the methods of persecution of French Muslims by Emmanuel Macron’s government, including the sanctioning and forced dissolution of organisations by decree, as well as the heavy-handed policing and criminalisation of Islam in social, religious and political spheres.
Commenting on its launch, Freschi said the report “documents how the French state has swiftly dismantled the foundations of the Muslim community’s autonomy through a calculated persecution, spreading terror among an entire religious community.”
Under Macron’s presidency, the French state has launched a multipronged assault on Muslim civil society in the name of combatting “Islamist separatism” and preserving the French laicite (secularism).
The report details the sweeping executive powers that have enabled persecution, amounting to a policy of maximum pressure policing in which almost exclusively Muslim institutions are systematically monitored, surveilled, investigated and sanctioned for minor infractions.
Hundreds of establishments, including mosques and Muslim schools have been shuttered and millions of Euros have been seized.
According to the latest statistics released by the French government in January 2022, there have been 24,887 investigations carried out; 718 Muslim organisations have been closed or dissolved; and €46 million ($50 million) has been confiscated.
On average, that amounts to 24 investigations a day, 15 closures a month, and 10 million seized a year.
The French state’s pattern of behaviour is “calculated to harass and humiliate Muslims, resulting in the intentional and severe deprivation of the minority’s freedom of religion, of opinion, of association and right to property,” the report argued.
The scope of the Systematic Obstruction policy ramped up considerably since the murder of schoolteacher Samuel Paty in October 2020, and recent directives like the 2021 Anti-Separatism Law have further entrenched the architecture of the policy, the report says.
“These attacks on the fundamental freedoms of belief and association have rightly been identified by human rights groups, equality bodies and European institutions, but the government couldn’t care less,” said Marwan Muhammad, former director of French NGO CCIF, which was closed as a result of the Systematic Obstruction policy.
“They are part of Macron’s grand scheme to control Muslims on all possible levels, thus securing the far-right and neo-republican votes,” he added.
The ‘Muslim question’ has becoming one of the defining issues in the leadup to France’s 2022 Presidential campaign, with each of the current frontrunner contenders aiming to outbid the other to prove their distaste for French Muslims.
Farid Hafez, an academic researcher wand expert on European counter terrorism policies, believes the objective of such draconian policies is to create a French Islam that is “silent upon oppression” and “submits to the French will of what Islam should look like”.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for the repeal of anti-Muslim policies such as the Systematic Obstruction policy, the Anti-Separatism Law, the Imams Charter, the 2004 Law on religious signs in schools, and the 2010 Niqab ban.
It also advocates for the establishment of an independent body to investigate the Systematic Obstruction measures, as well as to provide reparations for damages and losses incurred by establishments and individuals because of such measures.
It also demands respective EU member states to condemn France’s state-sanctioned persecution of Muslims, while calling for European civil society organisations to extend solidarity to individuals and organisations impacted by "structural Islamophobia" in France.
“If left unaddressed, the persecution facing Muslims in France is likely to be exported to the rest of Europe,” warned Freschi.