Macron calls for the break-up of ‘rad­i­cal Is­lamic as­so­ci­a­tions’

▶ French pres­i­dent re­veals few de­tails about his plans for Is­lam in the coun­try

The National - News - - NEWS - COLIN RAN­DALL

France’s Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron re­vealed plans yes­ter­day to dis­band rad­i­cal Is­lamic as­so­ci­a­tions and out­law “cer­tain prac­tices” in what is viewed as a pre­view of his long-awaited an­nounce­ment on the or­gan­i­sa­tion of Is­lam in France.

Mr Macron promised fur­ther an­nounce­ments in the com­ing weeks and said he was adopt­ing a low-key ap­proach as he worked to fi­nalise de­ci­sions “be­cause we have of­ten failed”.

He told RTL ra­dio he was de­ter­mined to com­bat the sep­a­ratism he claimed had taken root in some ar­eas of his coun­try, lead­ing to the re­jec­tion of the French repub­lic.

“In my fight against sep­a­ratism, against po­lit­i­cal Is­lam, I will be intractabl­e,” he said.

Yes­ter­day he met lead­ers of the French Coun­cil of the Mus­lim Faith, a body that does not have the sup­port of all Mus­lims in France and which seemed likely to be re­placed or re­formed in Mr Macron’s fi­nal pro­pos­als.

His re­marks co­in­cide with ris­ing con­cerns about per­ceived threats to France’s strong at­tach­ment to sec­u­lar­ism.

His ra­dio in­ter­view came af­ter a poll in Le Jour­nal du Di­manche showed 78 per cent of those ques­tioned felt sec­u­lar­ism was un­der threat. About 61 per cent said Is­lam was in­com­pat­i­ble with French val­ues.

More than 70 per cent of those polled were against os­ten­ta­tious re­li­gious sym­bols be­ing worn, with 82 per cent op­posed to peo­ple pray­ing in the streets.

But only 39 per cent said it was the most im­por­tant is­sue fac­ing France, with health, un­em­ploy­ment, spend­ing power, crime and the en­vi­ron­ment be­ing of greater im­por­tance.

A se­nior com­men­ta­tor from RTL, Olivier Maze­rolle, said rad­i­cal­ism was cre­at­ing fear among French peo­ple.

“The French want mea­sures to pre­vent a shift in so­ci­ety to­wards a com­plete re­jec­tion of Is­lam that would be an ab­so­lute dis­as­ter,” he said.

This month, a Mus­lim woman was told by far-right politi­cian Julien Odoul to re­move her hi­jab while she ac­com­pa­nied her son and other chil­dren on a school trip to a Bour­gogne Franche-Comte re­gional coun­cil meet­ing in east­ern France.

The woman tried to laugh off his de­mand but left when her son be­gan cry­ing.

Mr Odoul tried to de­fend his com­ments by claim­ing her hi­jab was a provo­ca­tion af­ter a man killed four col­leagues at the Paris po­lice head­quar­ters on Oc­to­ber 3.

Many French po­lit­i­cal fig­ures con­demned his stig­ma­ti­sa­tion of the woman, but Mr Macron’s fi­nance min­is­ter, Bruno Le Maire, claimed head­scarves were “le­gal but not nec­es­sar­ily de­sir­able”.

French Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Jean-Michel Blan­quer said that although it was not il­le­gal for a vol­un­teer ac­com­pa­ny­ing school­child­ren to wear a hi­jab, “we do not wish to en­cour­age the phe­nom­e­non that is con­trary to our val­ues”.

Mr Macron said “the wear­ing of the veil in the pub­lic space is not my busi­ness – the wear­ing of the veil in pub­lic ser­vices, at school, when we ed­u­cate our chil­dren, that’s my busi­ness”.

Although his an­nounce­ment of forth­com­ing pro­pos­als was thin on de­tail, Mr Macron men­tioned “pro­hib­i­tive mea­sures, dis­solv­ing some as­so­ci­a­tions … ban­ning cer­tain prac­tices that have be­come in­stalled and are not in ac­cor­dance with the laws of the repub­lic”.

It is not clear whether he had na­tional or lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tions in mind when he vowed to dis­solve rad­i­cal groups. The El­y­see Palace did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Anouar Kbibech, vice pres­i­dent of the French Coun­cil of the Mus­lim Faith, said af­ter the group’s meet­ing with Mr Macron that a spe­cial as­sem­bly of its re­li­gious coun­cil to­day would pro­duce a “pow­er­ful an­nounce­ment” deal­ing with “what Is­lam says about the veil” and warn­ing signs of re­li­gious rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion.

It is not known whether his meet­ing with the group’s lead­ers means Mr Macron has softened his view of a body of­ten crit­i­cised in France as un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive, but which is try­ing with in­ter­nal re­forms to show it still has a vi­tal role to play in or­gan­is­ing Is­lam in the coun­try.

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