French National Assembly approves law to combat Islamist extremism

Photo: EPA

France's National Assembly approved on Tuesday a law to fight Islamist extremism and separatism, news wires reported. The bill would significantly expand the government's powers to close religious organisations and places of worship if they are found to air "theories or ideas" that "provoke hate or violence".

The legislation offers protection to moderate community leaders who are in danger of being toppled by an extremist "putsch". It will also require all associations to commit in writing to uphold republican values "republican values" – the liberal, Enlightenment values France holds dear – if they want to receive state subsidies.

In order to crack down on religious funding from abroad, the law will require associations to declare donations over €10,000 and have their accounts certified.

A new crime of threatening a public servant in order to gain "a total or partial exemption or different application of the rules" would be punishable by up to five years in prison.

The law proposes stricter criteria for authorising home schooling of children over three years old to prevent parents taking their children out of public schools and enrolling them in underground Islamist structures.

Doctors, meanwhile, would be fined or jailed if they perform a virginity test on girls. Authorities would be banned from issuing residency papers to polygamous applicants.

President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party rallied around the law, with 347 MPs voting in favour, 151 against and 65 abstaining. The text will now be submitted to the upper house, the Senate, where Macron's party does not hold a majority, FRANCE 24 noted.

The bill was put forward after the October 16 stabbing and beheading of the teacher Samuel Paty by a Chechen Islamist militant unhappy about the display of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a class on freedom of expression. The gruesome murder of Paty sparked outrage across France – prompting Macron to crack down on Islamist extremism and violence in a country reeling from a wave of jihadist attacks since 2015 that have killed more than 250 people.

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