Rabat – Over 100 activists gathered this week at the Eiffel Tower to protest the upcoming vote on an “Islamophobic” policy cracking down on French schools, public officials, and religious institutions.
On February 14, an estimated 150 Muslims and allies from across France rallied in Paris, joining a protest aimed at preventing the allegedly Islamophobic bill from making its way through the French Parliament.
The peaceful demonstrations at the Eiffel Tower’s Trocadero Plaza came ahead of the vote on the legislation planned for Tuesday, February 16.
The controversial bill, sponsored by French Interior Minister Gerald Darminin, aims to halt “an Islamist hostile takeover targeting Muslims.” While Darminin maintains that the legislation “[is] not fighting against a religion,” critics of the policy argue that it targets Islam, the second most practiced faith in France.
New regulations on public servants and religious institutions are among the controversial bill’s most contentious stipulations.
The policy would prevent government officials from wearing religious symbols at work and require religious institutions that receive government funding to sign a “contract of Republican commitment.”
The bill would also force all French children about the age of three to attend public school, guarding against radical ideologies allegedly espoused through home-schooling and “clandestine schools.”
The proposal comes in the wake of growing fears about Islamic radicalism in France. Last October, an Islamist terrorist beheaded teacher Samuel Paty in the Paris suburbs after Paty showed “offensive” cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in his history class.
While the perpetrator, 18-year-old Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, was killed in a subsequent shootout with police, over 10 others have been charged with assisting the killer — including a local imam. Anzorov was posthumously found to have communicated with two unidentified jihadists in rebel stronghold Idlib, Syria, before the murder.
In an October speech, French President Emmanuel Macron categorized the attack as a prime example of “separatism,” a radical variety of Islam creating a “counter society” within France. Macron maintains that the bill is crucial to fight extremism and defend the French values of gender equality and secularism.
However, critics argue that it singles out Islam, castigating all Muslims for the actions of few. “It’s not worth attacking a whole community because one person did a horrible act,” said Zeyneb Bouabidi, a woman from the same Paris suburb where Paty was killed.
Some described the bill as a ploy by Macron’s centrist party La Republique en Marche! (LREM) to win over conservative voters before the coming elections. However, right-wing opposition leader Marine le Pen argues the policy doesn’t go far enough in fighting “radical Islam.”
While most backlash centers on the legislation’s anti-Islam measures, Catholic and Buddhist leaders have claimed they too will suffer fallout from the bill.
The vote on the policy is expected to take place later today.