Macron calls for the break-up of ‘radical Islamic associations’
▶ French president reveals few details about his plans for Islam in the country
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.