France shuts down its only anti-Islamophobia NGO and sole Muslim school, bans homeschooling and raids several mosques

25th Dec 2020
France shuts down its only anti-Islamophobia NGO and sole Muslim school, bans homeschooling and raids several mosques

French Gendarmerie GIGN SWAT counter-terrorism police (Credit: Domenjod/WikiCommons)

Harun Nasrullah

The French Government announced the dissolution of its largest anti-Islamophobia NGO, ordered raids on dozens of mosques, declared a ban on all homeschooling and shut its only Muslim school – all in the space of a fortnight.

The draconian measures are in line with a new bill presented by President Emmanuel Macron last month in a pledge to fight “Islamist separatism” in the wake of a spate of terror attacks this fall which claimed four lives, including that of schoolteacher Samuel Paty.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, announced the closure of mosques whose “discourse runs counter to our values. He also vowed to ban homeschooling to save children “who are outside the scope of the republic” and the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), an “enemy of the Republic.”

The move to shut CCIF came after a meeting of the Council of Ministers. Under French law, the council can dissolve any organization by decree, without requiring prior judicial scrutiny.

“Whatever its intention, this measure risks further stigmatizing Muslims in France,” said Human Rights Watch’s Western Europe researcher, Kartik Raj. “Shutting down an organization that raises legitimate concerns about anti-Muslim prejudice is blaming the messenger rather than addressing existing discrimination,” he said.

The heavy-handed action will make it harder for victims of anti-Muslim prejudice in France to seek appropriate redress and could leave others afraid to complain, according to Raj. “It could also backfire by fuelling the narrative that French state policy is anti-Muslim.”

The CCIF leadership says it has been baselessly implicated in the killing of the schoolteacher and slandered by the French establishment. In a statement, CCIF said, “No anti-racist association has ever received such treatment in France.
The accusation against us is, unfortunately, an extreme illustration of what many Muslims suffer in France: the suspicion of solidarity with terrorists when they are silent and the accusation of hypocritical concealment (taqiyya) when speaking.

“Within the CCIF team, we see this announcement of dissolution as a real political and institutional denial of anti-Muslim racism. It sends a terrible message to citizens of the Muslim faith: you do not have the right to defend your rights and the association that upholds the laws of our democracy to assist you in respecting your freedoms is now a target.” The CCIF also vowed to continue its work outside of France.

Raids on mosques

On December 3, Darmanin announced 76 out of more than 2,600 mosques had been flagged as possible threats to the country’s values and security. Any mosque found to be fomenting extremism would be closed down, he added.

Eighteen of the 76 are in Paris and 18 face imminent closures, according to reports. Darminin told RTL radio, “There are in some concentrated areas place of worship which are anti-Republican [where] imams are followed by the intelligence services and where the discourse runs counter to our values.”

The right-wing minister insisted the relatively small number of mosques targeted showed that “we are far from a situation of widespread radicalization.”
“Nearly all Muslims in France respect the laws of the Republic and are hurt by that [radicalization],” he said.

It would also make it a crime to intimidate public servants on religious grounds and crackdown on online hate speech by enabling judges to hold fast-track trials of terror suspects.

The draft bill also introduces jail terms and fines for doctors who provide controversial “virginity certificates” for traditional religious marriages, those caught handing them out face a year in jail and fined €15,000.

Macron’s defence of French principles upholding freedom of expression, including blasphemy, triggered protests in some Muslim countries.

 

Homeschooling ban and closure of the country’s only Muslim school

Homeschooling will also be banned as an option for parents of children aged three and above except in limited health-related cases. The government will also increase scrutiny of independent schools and assign national ID numbers to school-aged children to track attendance.

About 50,000 children receive home education in France out of 12 million pupils. All children will have to attend recognised schools once they turn three and will be recorded with individual identification numbers in the education system.

The law would affect hijab-wearing girls who have resorted to homeschooling following the 2004 law which banned religious symbols in public schools. However, the ban on homeschooling may be struck off the law as unconstitutional when it is examined by

the Constitutional Council, the government has been told.
Paris’s only Muslim school was shut down on December 9, MHS College and High School a private secondary was founded just five years ago. Although the school is officially secular and follows the national curriculum, its students are predominantly Muslim.

A unique feature of the school, however, is that it allows its female students to abide by their religious convictions and wear the hijab if they wish, “because we think that everybody should wear the clothes they want!” said the founder of the MHS.

One of the school’s founders spoke to TRT World on the condition of anonymity saying that “we are an open school to all cultures religion convictions origins” adding that “we don’t teach any courses around religion.”

 

Macron digging deeper hole for himself

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