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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Bill on separatism before the Council of Ministers

By: V4 Agency

The new bill, presented by the prime minister, contains 54 articles regarding the practice of the Muslim religion, home schooling, forced marriages, online incitement to hatred and the protection of civil servants. Violators could face severe punishment.

The French government’s long-awaited legislation on separatism has been preceded by lengthy debates. President Emmanuel Macron first spoke about the new legislation in his speech on separatism delivered on 2 October, just two weeks before the bestial beheading of the French teacher Samual Paty.

The French president eventually dediced to take up the fight against Islamist separatism. The bill, containing 54 articles, was submitted to the Council of Ministers on 9 December. The date chosen for the presentation of the bill is emblematic in itself: 9 December 2020 marks the 115th anniversary of the French act on the separation of state and church, that is, secularism. The act entered into force on this day in 1905.

The main provisions of the much-contested bill regulate the practice of the Muslim faith, home schooling for children at compulsory school age (from 3 to 18), forced marriages, online hate speech and the protection of public servants.

According to Prime Minister Jean Castex, the bill has two main objectives: to reinforce republican principles and to guarantee freedom of religion.

The authors of the text took meticulous care to avoid any accusation of Islamophobia. There is no reference to the term ‘Islamism’ in the bill and the text does not mention any religion by name, the France Info news portal points out.

In a Twitter post, Prime Minister Jean Castex underlined that the bill was not against religions or against the Muslim religion in particular. On the contrary: it is a law of freedom and liberation from religious fundamentalism, he stressed.

An article in the bill which has triggered much debate concerns online hate speech. The new legislation is expected to define a new criminal offence, namely the act of disseminating information online about someone’s private, family or professional life which makes them identifiable with the aim of endangering their lives. The murder of teacher Samual Paty was cited as an example. He was beheaded after his name and workplace had been posted on Facebook and he had been identified by students at the school to 18-year-old Chechen terrorist Abdullah Anzorov. Under the bill, this form of online incitement to hatred would be punishable by up to three years in prison and a 45,000 euro fine.

The bill places greater emphasis on the transparency of places of worship, both in terms of the funding of mosques and the contents of religious services, as there is ample evidence that Islamist separatist views have been disseminated in mosques. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has announced that the government is currently closely monitoring 76 mosques, 18 of which will probably be closed in the near future.

Another much debated point of the bill is the introduction of compulsory schooling for children starting at age three and the issue of home schooling. The aim of the government is to impart the values of the Republic in children by getting the children into the state education system as soon as possible. Under the proposed law, anyone opening a private school without state authorisation will face up to a one-year prison sentence and a 15,000-euro fine. In addition, the government plans to provide each school-age child with an individual national identification number to enable ease of tracking, ensuring that no child is denied their right to education.

The government also intends to better protect civil servants. Anyone attacking a civil servant for religious or ideological convictions would be severely punished. The bill would also oblige associations operating in the country to respect the principles and values ​​of the Republic including secularism, that is, the complete separation of church and state.

Under the bill, the French government would also introduce measures against polygamy and forced marriages, and ban the issuance of medical certificates attesting to an individual’s virginity. A healthcare worker issuing such a certificate would be sentenced up to one year in prison and a fine of 15,000 euros.

Marlene Schiappa, the Minister Delegate in charge of Citizenship, announced that a residence permit would no longer be issued to anyone living in polygamy.



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