Between Secularism and Faith: France Is Getting Tough on ‚Radical Islamism‘

Written by | Monday, July 20th, 2020

France’s newly-appointed Prime Minister, Jean Castex, has promised on Wednesday (15 July) to be “intransigent” in defending France’s official secularism, vowing to fight “radical Islamism in all its forms” as “an absolute priority”. Castex, a centre-right provincial mayor who graduated from the elite National School of Administration also told the National Assembly that their country was being “shaken to its foundations” by “the coalition of its enemies – terrorists, conspiracy theorists, separatists and communitarians”. He also promised that his government would introduce a new law to combat “separatism” after the summer break, which would aim to “avoid certain groups becoming closed in around ethnic or religious identities.”
“We must never accept that the laws of religion can be superior to those of the Republic,” said French President Emmanuel Macron in a landmark speech in the eastern city of Mulhouse on 18 February when he launched his government’s strategy against political Islam. “Islamist separatism is incompatible with freedom and equality,” he stated, “incompatible with the indivisibility of the Republic and the necessary unity of the nation.” Macron‘s speech, and its harsh language, came as no surprise to anybody who has followed the French debate on Islamism over the last few years. France’s heightened concerns about Islamism have been triggered by its preoccupation with the threat of terrorism. Ever since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015, the country has been in an almost constant state of alert.
But some members of France’s Muslim minority feel that the country’s official secularism is mainly designed to be used against them, although Macron himself has condemned divisive approaches to it. Yasser Louati, head of France’s Justice and Liberties For All Committee, says that Castex’s use of the term “separatism” is “heavily charged and specifically targets Muslims whose recent mobilisations against racism and Islamophobia irritate the dominant, conservative segment of French society”. Human rights groups previously slammed French government for carrying out discriminatory raids and house arrests against Muslims after it declared a state of emergency in November 2015. “The state of emergency that targeted over 5,000 Muslim homes, businesses and places of worship has become permanent, and I fear that the end of the summer will be violent when the government comes back to office,” Louati said.

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