France unveils draft law to fight Islamist radicalism

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French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti leaves the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Wednesday, Des. 9, 2020. A draft law aimed at arming France against Islamist radicalism was unveiled at Wednesday's weekly Cabinet meeting, a measure promoted by President Emmanuel Macron to rout out what he calls "separatists" undermining the nation. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS – The French government unveiled a draft law Wednesday aimed at better arming France against Islamist radicalism, a project promoted by President Emmanuel Macron to root out what he calls “separatists” undermining the nation.

France has suffered numerous Islamist terrorist attacks, including the gruesome beheading of a teacher in October who had showed his class cartoons of Islam's prophet, followed by an attack inside Nice's largest church that killed three.

The proposed legislation targets home schools, mosques or associations that promulgate an ideology running counter to French values, which authorities have called the “Islamist hydra” that can cultivate violence in some.

With claims by some that the draft law is too soft, or a political maneuver by Macron ahead of 2022 presidential elections to capture followers on the far right, it is likely to see lively debate when it goes before Parliament in coming months.

The topic is delicate because of the large Muslim population in France, estimated at 5 million. The proposed law, with the title “Supporting Republican Principles,” directly mentions neither Islam nor Islamism in an effort to avoid stigmatizing Muslims.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, also in charge of faiths, said separately later that Macron has asked him to organize a parliamentary mission to fight anti-Christian, anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim acts.

“The hate of religion is increasing. It touches everyone. It hurts,” he said on BFMTV.

Introducing the draft law to fight separatism, Prime Minister Jean Castex stressed that it “is not a text against religions or against the Muslim religion in particular.” Instead, he said, it is “a bill of freedom, a bill of protection, a bill of emancipation from Islamist fundamentalism” or other ideologies pursuing the same goals.