Thu 08 April 2021:
France’s Senate approved the addition of a ban on religious practices in university corridors to a controversial bill to fight “Islamist separatism” late Wednesday.
Discussing the draft bill, which has been criticized for alienating Muslims, the center-right Republicans (LR) party proposed adding a clause prohibiting prayers in university corridors as well as banning religious activities that might hinder educational activities.
Although Left Party senators and Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer objected to the proposal, it was accepted through the votes of the right-wing senators.
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On Feb. 16 this year, France’s National Assembly approved the bill, which will be debated in the Senate on March 30. It is expected to return to the National Assembly after a vote is held.
It was introduced by President Emmanuel Macron last year to fight so-called “Islamist separatism.”
The bill is being criticized because it targets the Muslim community and imposes restrictions on almost every aspect of their lives.
It provides for intervening in mosques and the associations responsible for their administration as well as controlling the finances of associations and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims.
It also restricts the education choices of the Muslim community by preventing families from giving children a home education.
The bill also prohibits patients from choosing doctors based on gender for religious or other reasons and makes “secularism education” compulsory for all public officials.
Last month Amnesty International said In a statement that the new regulations planned under the law would lead to further discrimination against the country’s Muslim minority.
“This proposed law would be a serious attack on rights and freedoms in France,” said Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s Europe researcher.
Macron’s government says the bill will tackle what the president has termed “Islamist separatism” and underscore the country’s secular system.
But critics argue it breaches religious freedom and unfairly targets France’s Muslim minority, which at 5.7 million people is the largest in Europe.
The law does not specifically mention the word Islam, but French Muslims have for months protested against it, saying the measures single them out.
“Time and again we have seen the French authorities use the vague and ill-defined concept of ‘radicalisation’ or ‘radical Islam’ to justify the imposition of measures without valid grounds, which risks leading to discrimination in its application against Muslims and other minority groups,” Perolini said. “This stigmatisation must end.”
Bitter feud with Muslim
France last year engaged in a bitter feud with Muslim countries, including Turkey, over the statements and policies made by top French officials following the republication of offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims across the world denounced satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s decision to republish cartoons, citing disrespect toward Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad.
Macron said he would not prevent the publication of the cartoons under the pretext of freedom of speech. French Muslims, however, accused him of trying to repress their religion and legitimizing Islamophobia.
Several Muslim-majority countries have condemned Macron’s attitude toward Muslims and Islam. Multiple protests and boycotts against French products have taken place around the world following Macron’s remarks, with critics claiming that the French president’s government is exploiting the spate of violence to intensify his controversial anti-Muslim stance.