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French lawmakers approve bill to fight Islamic extremism

Dozens of mourning people captured during civil service in remembrance of November 2015 Paris attacks victims. Western Europe, France, Paris, place de la République, November 15, 2015. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov.

Feb. 16, 2021

France’s lower house of parliament voted on Tuesday to take on “Islamist separatism,” as radical religious groups attempt to undermine the secular state.

The draft legislation, which has been criticized for stigmatizing Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit free speech and religious liberty, was backed by a clear majority of MPs in the National Assembly.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party rallied around the bill, with 347 National Assembly lawmakers voting in favor, 151 against, and 65 abstaining.

France’s Senate will now receive the bill, where Macron’s party does not hold a majority.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told RTL radio ahead of the vote Tuesday. “It’s a tough text… but necessary for the republic.”

The law expands France’s ability to close places of worship and religious schools, as well as to ban extremist preachers.

Amid concerns about the funding of mosques by Turkey, Qatar, or Saudi Arabia, it requires religious groups to declare large foreign donations and have their accounts certified.

Macron has been accused of pandering to far-right voters by exaggerating Islamist groups’ danger. But the government counters, pointing to repeated terror attacks and what Macron called the development of a “counter-society” that rejects secularism, equality, and other French values and laws.

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