France’s National Assembly passed a controversial bill on Tuesday aimed at curbing the rise of Islamism. The so-called anti separatism bill strengthens the state’s oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs. It also includes tough new measures against online apologists for acts of violence and cracks down on practices like forced marriage and virginity testing. The bill was brought forward by President Emmanuel Macron who said it will strengthen the country’s secular principles. His party said the need for such a law was highlighted by the killing of a schoolteacher in Paris last October. Samuel Paty was beheaded by a teenage Islamist after he showed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on free speech. Less than a fortnight later, a church warden and two worshippers were killed in a basilica in Nice by a Tunisian Islamist. Guillaume Vuilletet is from the president’s ruling party. “The fight against ‘separatism’ has long been an imperative of national interest. The tragedy (Islamist killing of teacher Samuel Paty) has made it an urgent moral necessity.
And so what is in this bill? First, it guarantees our need for secularism after major advances in our public actions. Second, it protects victims of ‘separatism’, be it physically or online. “Tuesday’s vote in the lower house was the first hurdle for a bill that’s proved controversial on the left and right. Some on the left say it is an attack on France’s five million Muslims, while critics on the right say it is too weak. Still – it sailed through with 347 votes in favor to 151 against. The legislation now moves to the Senate, where the centre-right opposition dominates. It’s passage is seen as key to Macron’s re-election hopes for 2022. French identity and domestic security are expected to be central issues in the presidential vote.
Earlier, the Committee for Coordination of Turkish Muslims in France (CCMTF) and the Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation (CMIG) — both catering to citizens of Turkish origin — as well as the Faith and Practice movement, announced that they would not be signing up to a charter of secular conduct proposed by Macron.
“Through these repetitive actions, the groups… all risk being held responsible for this situation of division,” said Mohamed Moussaoui, the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), the umbrella grouping for France’s Muslim groups.
This refusal “is not likely to provide reassurance… on the state of the representative bodies of the Muslim religion”, he added.
A source close to the issue, who asked not to be named, said the three groups refusing to sign the charter were particularly concerned about the definition of foreign interference in religion and the definition of political Islam.
The row comes at a time of severe diplomatic tensions between France and Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly lambasted Macron’s bid to crack down on radical Islam in the country.
The bill if passed in the Senate is very likely to stoke further tensions between France and Turkey, the latter of which is moving in the opposite direction.
Turkey’s parliament will form a subcommittee to probe rising levels of racism and Islamophobia in European countries, the head of its human rights committee said Wednesday, according to state-run Anatolian News Agency.
“The racism in Europe is culturally transforming into Islamophobia, which expresses the fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims,” Hakan Cavusoglu said in a statement.
The Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and European Union have not been able to form a clear position on anti-Islamism, Cavusoglu said.
He said European countries have difficulty seeing Islamophobia as a form of discrimination.
“The subcommittee will make onsite examinations in European countries on the subject. It will hold talks with international institutions and organizations on this issue,” he added.
While Islamophobia is a real and despicable phenomena, there is also no denying that Erdogan is capitalizing on his ultra-Islamist credentials to increase his influence on Arab politics as well as forging a wide pan-European network, where the Turks and Muslims are recruited to support AKP’s policies, and in some cases even to spy on “enemies of Turkey”.
Turkey’s Islamists don’t realize that while Islamism, like ultra-orthodox Judaism, is merely a deeply-held belief which deserves state protection, political Islam is cross-breed between faith and divisive political activism against the secular underpinnings of the Western democracies.
Mutual misunderstandings could cause a Clash of Civilizations as damaging as the one transpiring between China and the West.
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