The French president announces a law that will pursue indoctrination in neighborhoods and will increase control over proselytizing associations and mosques
Emmanuel Macron declared war on separatism on Friday. He was not talking about the Corsicans, or the former colonies, but about those who, according to the French president, in the name of Islam want to take control of parts of the territory. “There is a radical Islamism that leads to denying the laws of the Republic, to trivialize violence and some citizens to choose the worst,” he said, announcing a law that will tighten surveillance on those who indoctrinate young people and finance extremists. . “The shortcomings in the integration policy and in the fight against discrimination”, he admitted, “have favored this evolution.”
A legal offensive against radical Islamism without stigmatizing believers: Macron’s long-awaited speech on separatism was a delicate exercise. Colonial history continues to weigh on this country where the extreme right garners millions of votes, often with xenophobic rhetoric, and is emerging as the main alternative to Macron in the 2022 presidential elections. Since the 1980s, the debate on secularism and the signs religious is divisive. France has been the victim in the last decade of attacks carried out in the name of the Muslim religion, and has been a hotbed for Islamic State jihadists. The speech comes a week after a terrorist attack against the old headquarters of the weekly ‘Charlie Hebdo’, a victim of the January 2015 attack that is being tried in Paris this fall.
“We must confront Islamist separatism. It is a conscious and theorized, political-religious project “, said the French president in Les Mureaux, a municipality of 32,000 inhabitants 40 kilometers from Paris and with several neighborhoods designated as the target of” republican reconquest “in the face of the Islamist advance. “I do not ask any of our citizens to believe or not believe, or to do so a little or moderately: this is not a matter for the Republic.”
In 2018, the State located 15 neighborhoods with serious problems of radicalization, “parallel ecosystems” where some associations provided from nursery places to jobs, and where young people who emigrated to Syria to fight abounded. Since then, 212 restaurants have been closed in these neighborhoods that concealed radical activities, 15 places of clandestine worship, 13 cultural establishments, 11 reception centers for minors and four schools.
The French government’s strategy has a “defensive” part, according to a Macron collaborator. It consists of the law that is still in the process of elaboration and that will be presented in December. One objective is to reinforce financial and ideological vigilance over cultural, educational, sporting or charitable associations that are actually proselytizing and indoctrinating.
Among other measures, the State contemplates forcing the associations to sign a “letter of secularism”, and failure to comply would lead to the loss of subsidies. When violations of personal dignity or psychological or physical pressure are demonstrated, the State will close them. One possibility to reinforce the control of these associations is the reform of the law of 1905, which enshrines freedom of worship and the neutrality of the State before the different religions. The reform should encourage the acceptance under the 1905 regulation of mosques that receive foreign funding and religious associations that disguise themselves under other duties.
Another measure will be the ban, with exceptions for health reasons, of home schooling, which now allows children to be taken out of school and into parallel and illegal systems. “The school is the heart of the space of secularism, the place where we forge consciences so that children become free and rational citizens to determine their lives,” Macron said in the speech. “The Republic will resist at school.”
The new law should also include the prohibition of so-called virginity certificates, issued to women before marriage. And it will grant to the prefects – representatives of the State – the power to impose measures of equality, in the access of men and women to the swimming pools for example, when the mayors protect discriminatory measures.
The second part of the strategy against separatism is the “offensive”. It consists in ensuring that the Republican promise of equality and emancipation is effectively fulfilled. Today the discrimination of the population of non-European origin – in education, at work, in housing – is evident. “We have created neighborhoods in which the promise of the Republic has not been fulfilled,” Macron said. “And these organizations, which defend radical Islam, have methodically taken the place,” he added.
A key point of the initiative is the construction of “an enlightened Islam, which can be at peace with the Republic.” This will require “freeing Islam in France from foreign influences,” said the president, with the formation of indigenous imams to replace the imams formed in Turkey, Morocco and Algeria, and to stop the propaganda of Salafists or other radical currents.
Macron is not the first president to speak of “separatism.” In the past, the term had been used to refer to the independentists of the former colonies. Or the communists, “men who have made a vow of obedience to the orders of a foreign action of domination, led by masters of a great Slavic power”, as General de Gaulle denounced in 1947.
Until recently, the word in vogue was “communitarianism.” The current president prefers “separatism.” But the term is misleading. When, at the beginning of September, Marlène Schiappa, Minister of Citizenship, was asked if the future law against separatism would apply to the independentists of her land, Corsica, she replied: “I would like you to leave the Corsicans alone, please… The Corsicans do not organize in a hostile way to overthrow the Republic and impose laws on the group ”.