A spat between France and Pakistan has been renewed following weeks of protests and calls to boycott French goods over the country’s treatment of Muslims.
France’s “draconian” new measures targeting the country’s minority Muslim population have been condemned by Pakistan’s human rights minister Shireen Mazari.
Initially, Mazari had tweeted that "Macron is doing to Muslims what the Nazis did to the Jews – Muslim children will get ID numbers (other children won’t) just as Jews were forced to wear the yellow star on their clothing for identification.”
Mazari said this after initial reports were circulated by some in the press that France intended to give Muslim students unique identification numbers in a bid to stop the spread of extremism.
While those reports were untrue, and all students will get a unique identification number, the measures have been brought forward with an eye on the country’s Muslim population. The minister later deleted the tweet, however, not before launching another salvo at France’s treatment of Muslim women.
Following three terrorist attacks in France in just over one month, Macron has veered sharply to the right announcing a series of measures that would tackle what he calls “Islamist separatism” - an ill-defined term that has many confused who the target group would be.
To some analysts, it has appeared that the normative everyday practices of Muslims are under the spotlight. Against this backdrop Macron’s government announced restrictions on homeschooling and giving all children identification numbers.
Following the announcement, France’s Minister of Interior Gerald Darmanin said that "We must save our children from the clutches of the Islamists."
Statements like this have led many to assume that France’s real target in drawing up this legislation is its Muslim citizens.
France’s treatment of Muslims has come under the spotlight in recent weeks with some suggesting that Macron’s government is aiming to show that he is tough on law and order in a bid to outdo Marie Le Pen, a presidential frontrunner for the 2022 elections.
Paris has also been caught off guard by the intensity of critique it has faced as the country has cast a dragnet on its Muslim population, alienating many people that it would otherwise need to tackle the lone-wolf attackers.
It has also suffered because of incompetence in rolling out some of the legal proposals.
One French legal scholar accused the government of falling prey to public relations “announcements in a bid to seduce the electorate of the far-right, the conservatives as well as a certain part of the left, and you have what can be done in reality, and between both worlds, you have a massive gap.”
In that void, there have been misleading or factually incorrect reports about what the bill actually says. However, there is also another darker lived reality for Muslims in France.
A recent report found that French police raided the house of Muslim children and arrested them after they expressed disagreements over offensive cartoons printed by the Charlie Hebdo magazine of the Prophet Muhammed.
A recent Amnesty International report has said that some of the provisions being proposed by Macrons government threaten to have a “chilling effect on human rights defenders and civil society organisations.”
The French government is also considering dissolving the human rights body CCIF which monitors and reports on Islamophobia. The move would be a blow to tracking the ongoing plight of Muslims in the country which has seen an increase in attacks and broader discrimination.
Amnesty International said of the expected that “The dissolution of the CCIF would be a blow to the right to freedom of association and have a chilling effect for all human rights defenders engaged in combating racism and discrimination. The French authorities have failed to provide to date any evidence that could justify the dissolution of the organization. Nothing shows that the CCIF is a clear and imminent danger for national security or public order, which could justify its dissolution.”