Emmanual Macron’s government ramps up anti-Muslim rhetoric as presidential elections approach.

France’s right-wing Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has a new target in his ongoing crusade against the country’s Muslims.

The latest anti-Muslim controversy whipped up by Darmanin relates to a planned mosque construction underway in northwestern France.

On Monday this week municipal officials in the city of Strasbourg, run by a Green mayor Jeanne Barseghian, approved a grant of almost $3 million to the Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation (CMIG), a pan-European Islamic charity.

That was enough for France’s Darmanin to rail on Twitter that the city’s mayor was supporting what he called “political Islam” and worse, that the CMIG had refused to sign the controversial Charter of Imams. 

The charter, a document that French President Emmanual Macron wants the Muslim community to adopt has been highly contentious.

When the charter was first published in January several Muslim organisations refused to sign on, one of those organisations was CMIG. As a result, a crisis of legitimacy has clouded the implementation of the charter.

Now Macron’s government and his interior minister are attempting to pressure the Muslim community by publicly threatening those that have criticised the charter.

One French human rights activist accused the interior minister of engaging in an “intimidation campaign to block the project.”

CMIG has said that any charter that regulates the actions of imams should be done in consultation with the country’s Muslim community, not be imposed by the Macron government.

The charter, amongst other things, is aimed at silencing imams from speaking about social justice issues in France and abroad that are important to the country’s Muslim community.

In Article 9, the charter states that the "denunciation of alleged State racism" will be considered an act of "defamation." The document even says that speaking about state racism "exacerbates both anti-Muslim hatred and anti-France hatred."

France’s normally rigid and extreme secularism also known as laicite regulates a strict separation of church and state, however, in the region of Strasbourg things work a bit differently.

Under the Concordat in Alsace-Moselle the region is governed by a set of laws dating to 1801 which allows regional authorities to fund religious activities and makes religious education in schools compulsory.

While the rest of France abrogated the Concordat in 1905, originally signed under the Napoleonic period, the region of Strasbourg was under German control at that time.

When the region became part of France after World War 1, those unique laws remained in force.

The latest controversy, therefore, is less about secularism in France but more about the government using the opportunity to burnish its anti-Islam messaging ahead of the presidential elections in 2022.

France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen is ahead in the polls for the 2022 presidential elections, and almost 60 percent of French people disapprove of the job Macron is doing.

In February Darmanin, who was elected on a centrist platform, raised eyebrows when he accused Le Pen — who has made a career of being anti-Islam — of going soft on the religion and presumably its followers.

Source: TRT World