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Towards fighting Religious Extremism: France approves Bill aimed at rooting out Islamic Radicalization, protests erupt

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Two months after French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech calling out Islam as a religion that is “in crisis all over the world”, the French Government has approved a ‘Separatism’ Bill aimed at rooting out religious radicalization from the country and safeguarding France’s inherent values of gender-equality and secularism.

The wide-ranging bill titled “Supporting respect for the principles of the Republic” proposes legislations to counter the interference of religious authorities into public associations, schooling, and online with the objective of undermining national values. No religion, in particular, has been mentioned in the bill.

Some key measures of the legislation are:

  • Wider oversight over funding of Religious Organizations: Any association in France that receives public funding if found violating French values would be required to reimburse the funds. Stricter financial controls have also been put into place to overlook foreign funding and prevent takeovers by extremist ideologies.
  • Homeschooling: The Bill has directed for children of over 3 years to start attending regular schools as a way to counter religious homeschooling that has often been seen as a way of indoctrination by rigid beliefs. Any informal schooling by mosques would now have to be state-authorized and not self-declared.
  • Gender Equality: Any doctor granting a ‘virginity certificate’ would now face charges. Rules have also been put in place against Polygamy and forced marriages.
  • Policing Places of Worship: Authorities can now close up any places of worship in connection with religious offences for up to two months in order to stop hate preachers.

It is worth noting that representatives of all religions were consulted while framing the Bill in which the French Council for Muslim Faith gave its backing. The Foundation of Islam for France, a body that seeks progressive Islam also called the law “necessary to fight radicalization”.

However, the Bill has received mixed reactions from the public with Muslim groups in France protesting over it alleging that it points the finger at Islam, while right-wing French groups have said that it only adds layers to existing provisions while failing to actually counter ‘Islamic radicalization’.

Islam is the second most populous religion in France with a community of over 5.7 million primarily due to migration from the Middle East, which has also left the country bloodied by numerous terrorist attacks in the past years.

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