The anti-Muslim climate in France is normalising a general crackdown on the countries 6 million-strong Muslim community.
France’s right-wing Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin in a statement expressed his displeasure at not being able to close down more mosques in the country.
Darmanin made the comments in response to a parliamentary question about mosques that the government sees as promoting “separatism.”
"The laws of the Republic do not allow us to close these places of worship," he said.
That hasn’t stopped the government of French President Emmanuel Macron from closing down 17 mosques for violating vague “security laws” or not having the right “safety standards.” An additional 89 mosques are also under surveillance.
There is increasing concern amongst French civil society, international human rights organisations and local Muslims who fear that Macron’s government is disproportionately targeting Muslims in a bid to curry favour with far-right voters with presidential elections just over one year away.
Darmanin’s comments also come at a time when the French parliament is in the final stages of approving a controversial Separatism Bill, which some have seen as a tool created to specifically target the country’s Muslim community.
In discussing the bill, lawmakers have been clear towards who they think the law should be applied to.
One lawmaker said the Separatism Bill risked “annoying all religions without distinction” including those "which do not pose any problem to the Republic.”
Darmanin responded to the French lawmakers desire to have a law specifically targeting Islam and Muslims by suggesting that “of course that can get in the way” adding that “a text which would have concerned only the Muslims would have been contrary to the law of separation of the churches and the State."
Another lawmaker warned that there was a link between separatism and immigration, suggesting that the country needs to re-think its migration policy.
Researchers and academics, however, have suggested that France’s housing policies, discrimination and racism are bigger factors hampering the country’s inability to integrate different communities.
In December of last year, another french lawmaker proposed legislation that would result in "interning" French citizens who are on so-called radicalisation watchlists and would see them being officially sent to "administrative detention centres."
Earlier this month, France's Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin, who was elected on a centrist platform, raised eyebrows when he accused the far-right leader Marine Le Pen — who has made a career of being anti-Islam — of going soft on the religion and presumably its followers.
Amnesty International has accused the French government of doubling down “on their perpetual smear campaign against French Muslims” and of launching their “own attack on freedom of expression” as a means of silencing the country’s Muslim community.
Following the murder of Samuel Patty by a lone individual the French government went into overdrive to try and clampdown on the broader Muslim community. The crackdown led Amnesty International to say that “The French government is not the champion of free speech that it likes to think it is.”