France cabinet supports new law facilitating prosecution of religious extremism

The French government Wednesday formally announced its support for a bill aimed at protecting the “principles of the republic.” The new law proposes to strengthen the government’s ability to prosecute extremist religious groups that “present a serious threat to public order.” Critics have expressed concerns that the law is aimed specifically at Muslim groups, but the cabinet has attempted to clarify that the law is intended to protect freedom by targeting fundamental groups.

According to Reuters, “Prime Minister told reporters the law would give authorities tools to “combat political and ideological undertakings which go against our values … and sovereignty and sometimes go as far as criminal acts.””

The debate about the proposed law has intensified following the October 16 public beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty by a man intending to punish Paty for the showing of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad during a class on free speech. The Macron administration has pursued other controversial measures targeting free speech, and denies that the law is aimed at Islam in particular.

As France draws nearer to what’s expected to be a rematch between Marie Le Pen and Macron in the 2022 presidential election, Macron has faced staunch criticism from opponents on both the left and the right for his administration’s efforts to address violent extremism in the country.

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