First modification: 07/24/2021 – 03:33
The French National Assembly on Friday passed a controversial “anti-separatism” bill despite strong criticism from parliamentarians on the left and right. The government argued that the legislation was necessary to strengthen France’s secular system, but critics say it violates religious freedom.
After a heated seven-month debate, with the text going back and forth between the Lower House of France, the National Assembly, and the Senate, the anti-separatist bill was approved by 49 votes to 19. There were five abstentions.
In a forceful speech, far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Friday criticized the “anti-republican law,” which he said was “anti-Muslim.”
France’s main opposition parties, including the Socialists (PS) and the center-right Republicans, along with the French Communist Party, voted against the bill for different reasons.
Only three parties in the National Assembly, the governing La República en Marcha (LREM) party and its two allies, voted in favor of the law.
The far-right National Grouping party, led by Marine Le Pen, abstained from voting.
All eyes on the 2022 presidential elections
Introduced by the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, the bill contains a series of measures on the neutrality of the civil service, the fight against online hatred and the protection of public officials, such as teachers.
The bill was debated in a highly charged atmosphere in France, after three attacks late last year by extremists, including the October beheading of teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown his students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. during a civics class.
France, home to the largest Muslim community in Europe, is still shaken by the succession of massacres committed by Islamist militants since January 2015, which have killed hundreds.
However, critics say the legislation goes against the liberal values the Republic seeks to protect.
A US envoy for religious freedom last year criticized the bill for being “clumsy.” The regulations have provoked unusually critical coverage in the English-language media, prompting even President Emmanuel Macron to personally write to the ‘Financial Times’ to defend it.
Analysts have said that Macron, who came to power in 2017 as a centrist reformer, has leaned noticeably to the right in recent months, as he smells like his battle for presidential re-election in 2022 will come down to a runoff duel with the extreme right of Marine Le Pen.