Last week, the French government approved a bill aimed at combating religious radicalism. The authorities believe that tight controls on foreign funding for religious organizations and a ban on virginity certificates will prevent further massacres such as those that stunned France in October. And although the Elysee Palace declares that the document is about all religions, few people believe in this: the fight against the radicalization of Muslim communities is very clearly traced in it. How the authorities of the Republic are going to defend its main values — freedom, equality, brotherhood — and why they decided to defend them from Islam?
The bill, dubbed “Strengthening Republican Principles,” was presented in detail on December 8 and immediately drew a flurry of criticism. However, the very next day, the Council of Ministers, after consulting, approved it. According to the French Prime Minister Jean Castex, the document has nothing to do with religion: it will help to counter-terrorism and should strengthen the principles of the Republic.
This bill is not directed against religions, in particular, against Muslims. On the contrary, it is a law about freedom, about emancipation in the face of religious fundamentalism. We want to provide a means of protection against ideological and political associations that attack our values and sovereignty
the prime minister of France
The head of the country’s Interior Ministry, Gerald Darmanen, and his colleagues from other ministries joined the prime minister’s position and explained: we are really talking about extreme manifestations of any religion, not just Islam. Only in the French media, in spite of everything, the law is credited with fighting Islamic radicalism, not Christianity. And there are reasons for this.
To begin with, it is worth noting that Kastex himself spoke about this in an interview with Le Monde newspaper. The prime minister said that the enemy of the Republic is “a political ideology called radical Islam.” In his opinion, the bill will help French Muslims “free themselves from the clutches of radical Islamists.”
In addition, the main points of the program really suggest that the authorities of the Republic have decided to fight against Islam, although they can be applied not only to Muslim radicals. Thus, the project provides for a ban on the introduction of confessional menus in canteens, punishment for forced marriage, and increased control over public organizations — they can be closed if the authorities see something “violation of the principles of the Republic.” For polygamy, they will even be deprived of visas and expelled from the country.
According to the project, the authorities will be able to prosecute unregistered educational institutions that are suspected of promoting radical Islam, will introduce an oath of religious neutrality for civil servants, ban the issuance of certificates of virginity and separate visits to swimming pools by men and women.
The project also provides for a thorough check of organizations that receive funding from abroad: data on foreign donations in the amount of more than 10 thousand euros must be included in the income tax return. To exclude the danger of outside influence, the authorities turned to the French Council for Muslim Affairs (CFCM) with a proposal to sign a charter of secular values and create a Council of Imams, which will have to certify religious leaders. At the same time, the CFCM, which should represent Islamic organizations at the state level, has not won the support of believers in France.
The main focus is likely to be on school education. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke about this back in early October 2020. He emphasized that special attention is planned to be paid to schools: homeschooling will be prohibited for all children from the age of three.
In recent years (that is, even before the start of the pandemic and the transfer to telecommuting), more than 60 thousand children in France were schooled at home. Now it will be possible not to go to school only for medical reasons — thus children should integrate into the environment and adopt the values of the Republic. However, no one will forbid studying the Arabic language and culture, but it is recommended to do this outside the school curriculum.
According to some reports, at meetings on the bill, Macron firmly insisted that the Muslim community should “submit to the values of the Republic in its faith.” Experts who participated in the preparation of the document assure that some of its provisions have been revised in favor of more stringent measures.