Lawmakers in France approved a controversial anti-separatism bill that the government has maintained will strengthen the nation’s secular beliefs. However, the critics of the Emmanuel Macrons government have said that the new law could harm civil rights, especially those of the 5.4 million Muslim population in the European country.
Tuesday’s vote on what the incumbent government describes as the “anti-separatism” bill, brought forward by Macron, paves the way for it to become the law within the next few months. The lower house of the French national assembly, which is dominated by Macron’s ruling-party centrist La République En Marche (LREM), voted 347-151 in favor of the law, while sixty-five abstaining.
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Gerald Darmanin, the Interior Minister of France, said ahead of the vote that “It’s an extremely strong secular offensive.” He added that even though it’s a hard test, it’s essential for the Republic of France. The law consists of seventy articles, which empower the government to shut places of worship and religious schools as well as a ban on whatever the state categorizes as “extremist” ideology.
Moreover, regarding the foreign funding of the French mosques, the law requires the groups to declare large groups to have their accounts verified and declare massive findings. The move comes as the French presidential elections loom next year and with years-long divisions regarding the integration of the nation’s Muslim population.
On the other hand, critics of the government have maintained that Darmanin and Macron are pandering to the far-right votes by exaggerating the danger of groups they dub as “Islamist.” Meanwhile, Macron maintains that the threat is more real, citing recent attacks in France, and he describes it as the development of a counter society that rejects freedom, secularism, and equality.
On Sunday, hundreds of people took to the streets in France to protest the new bill, maintaining that the law aims to reinforce the discrimination against Muslims. Besides, the campaign atmosphere in the country is building up, and right-wing opposition parties have stated that the bill does not go as far, besides calling on for a ban on wearing a hijab, arguing that it was a manifestation of Islam. But the government has rejected the demands.
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