Lower house of French parliament approves anti-Islam bill

February 17, 2021 - 18:19

The lower house of the French parliament has approved a controversial bill that it says is aimed at curbing “Islamist separatism” but that has raised concerns about targeting religious freedom and stigmatizing Muslims.

French lawmakers passed the bill — originally dubbed the “anti-separatism” bill — at the French National Assembly on Tuesday, with 347 legislators voting in favor, 151 against, and 65 abstaining.

The legislation will now be passed to France’s upper house, the conservative-led Senate, where French President Emmanuel Macron’s party does not hold a majority.

“It’s an extremely strong secular offensive,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said ahead of the vote. “It’s a tough text... but necessary for the republic.”

Among the more than 70 articles of the legislation, there are those about tough measures against online apologists for acts of violence.

According to Press TV, the legislation also expands the ability of the state to close places of worship and religious schools, as well as to ban extremist preachers.

It also tightens rules on the funding of mosques, associations, and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims.

The French government says the bill will strengthen the country’s secular principles, but critics argue it targets the Muslim community and imposes restrictions on almost every aspect of their lives.

The bill was introduced by Macron last year supposedly to stamp out what he called “Islamist separatism” following the murder of a school teacher by a Muslim teenager of Chechen origin.

Teacher Samuel Paty was murdered after he showed his students insulting caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) earlier published by the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The assailant was killed by French police near the scene of the attack.

On Sunday, people took to the streets of the French capital, Paris, to demand that the draft law be scrapped over concerns that it would turn all Muslims into potential suspects.

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