French bill clamps down on radical Islam

The bill, which was seen by AFP, also makes it an offence to share the personal information of a person in a way that allows them to be identified or located by people who want to harm them.

Relatives and colleagues hold a picture of Samuel Paty during the 'Marche Blanche' in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris, on 20 October 2020, in solidarity after he was beheaded for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Picture: AFP

PARIS - A French bill on preventing radicalisation, completed after the Islamist beheading of teacher Samuel Paty, makes it a crime to intimidate public servants on religious grounds, according to the text unveiled Wednesday.

The bill, which was seen by AFP, also makes it an offence to share the personal information of a person in a way that allows them to be identified or located by people who want to harm them.

President Emmanuel Macron's government has clamped down on radical Islam following the gruesome murder of Paty, who was the target of a vicious online smear campaign for showing his students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a class on free speech.

His murder sent shock waves through France, which has been repeatedly targeted by Islamist extremists since 2015, most of them French citizens.

Paty's name was shared online by the father of one of his students, who labelled the teacher a "thug" in a video calling for his dismissal over the cartoons.

The father also exchanged messages with Paty's killer, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee who travelled over 80 kilometres (50 miles) from his home in Normandy to attack the teacher in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, where he paid some students to point him out.

A few weeks before Paty's death, Macron had already set out plans to tackle what he called the "Islamist separatism" in poor French neighbourhoods that aimed to create a "counter-society" where Islamic law prevailed.

As examples of the growing sectarianism, he cited children from ultraconservative Muslim families being taken out of school, and sporting and cultural associations being used to indoctrinate youth.

  • 'Hands off my teacher' -
    The bill drafted by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti provides for each child to be given an ID number that would be used to ensure they are attending school.

"We must save our children from the clutches of the Islamists," Darmanin told Le Figaro newspaper on Wednesday.

The draft law also cracks down on online hate speech of the kind suffered by Paty by allowing for suspects to be summarily tried.

"This law is, 'hands off my teacher, hands off the values of the republic'," Dupond-Moretti told RTL radio.

NGOs and charities suspected of being infiltrated by radical Islamists are also in the government's sights.

The bill, which will be presented in cabinet on December 9, stipulates that any association that seeks public funding must agree to "respect the principles and values of the republic" and return the money if found to have flouted the rules.