The lower house of the French Parliament approved this Tuesday, with 347 votes in favor and 151 against, the controversial bill that aims to combat Islamic radicalism in France. However, the legislation generates criticism from left to right
Also known as “Law of separatisms”, the legislation reinforces the powers of the State in a series of sectors linked to religious worship and will have a direct impact on issues and themes so different from education, online discourse, the matrimonial regime or associativism.
The debate surrounding the proposal presented by the Government to the National Assembly and the criticisms it deserved, coming from all sides of the French ideological and party spectrum, were well mirrored in the interventions of the main parties, before the vote.
To the right of the Republic in March (LREM) the law was criticized for taking religious worship as a whole, by not specifically referring to radical Islam, and regretted that it did not go as far as it could go.
However, on the left, the violation of the principles of secularism and religious freedom, pillars of the French Republic, was denounced, and legislation was said to be discriminatory against the approximately 5.7 million Muslims residing in France.
“It is a tough law, but it is necessary for the Republic,” defended Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, speaking to RTL radio.
The bill now goes up to the Senate, where it will again be the subject of intense discussion and could be the subject of new amendments – not least because the right is the one with the majority in the upper house of the French Parliament, recalls the Public.
Entitled “Reinforcing Republican Principles”, the law was devised by President Macron, who promised it in the same month of two brutal terrorist attacks in France in October last year.
The head of state assured that he would not allow Islamic fundamentalism to undermine or subvert the individual rights and “republican values” of the French, such as secularism, freedom of worship and freedom of expression.
One of the main measures of this transformation within French society imposes changes in the education system, namely in the teaching at home.
French families will no longer be able to simply declare that their minor children will be educated at home. Special authorization from the Ministry of Education will be required, which will investigate on a case-by-case basis.
Also, all organizations or associations benefiting from public funds or subsidies must sign an agreement “Republican engagement contract” which, once breached, can lead to suspension of funding.
In addition, religious associations will have to declare amounts and sources of funding, including those from abroad.
The authorities also have more powers to investigate and close places of worship and prayer about which they are suspicious of extremist speeches and hate promoters.
The imposition of punishments which can range from fines in the order of 15,000 euros, revocation of residence permits for foreigners or effective prison terms for health professionals who issue virginity certificates. The rules for stopping polygamy and forced marriages are also tight.
The law also extends to all private companies with public contracts the “Principle of neutrality” which, among other provisions, prohibits officials from displaying and wearing symbols and religious clothing or expressing political opinions.
The new guidelines and fines on hate speech online stand out, creating a new “Crime of separatism” and making it easier to arrest and punish people who share or promote hate speech on social media aimed at public sector officials or elected politicians.