French president to present bill on countering “Islamist separatism”

Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA

French President will present a bill in today’s cabinet meeting regarding how to tackle the country’s problem of “Islamic separatism.”

After the nation experienced three attacks linked to radical Islamism over the past month and a half, the question of Islamic radicalisation has re-emerged as a topic of debate, dividing France, home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority. Macron’s bill will lay out provisions mandating formalised education for all school children as a way to combat extremist indoctrination through home-schooling. A strong supporter of French secularism, Macron has been struggling to balance upholding the country’s strict values of laïcité (secularism) in the face of French Muslims’ demands that the government respect their religious practices.

Expect tensions to continue rising in France, as the country has seen heightened surveillance of worship spaces and surrounding communities. Fearing that these practices might evolve into state-sanctioned discrimination, French Muslims are increasingly concerned with rising Islamophobia, which could cut deep cleavages in French society. Once hailed as a centrist reformer in the face of Marine Le Pen’s right-wing nationalism, some view Macron as increasingly authoritarian and pandering to xenophobic sentiment. Given the global resurgence of populist nationalism, a codified law against “Islamic separatism” could legitimise far-right discourse in the near future.

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