The French president, Emmanuel Macron, says he hopes to rid France of what authorities call a “parallel society” of radical Muslims who, in his words, thrive outside the values of the nation.
The French president announced a series of measures on Friday in a proposed new law to “defend the republic and its values and ensure it respects its promise of equality and emancipation.”
He described Islam as “a religion that is in crisis all over the world today” before unveiling his plan to tackle radicalism. The comments prompted strong backlash from Muslim activists.
He also spoke of freeing Islam in France from “foreign influences” and intercepting education finances and other means to indoctrinate vulnerable people.
Macron coined the term “separatism” to describe an underworld in France that thrives in some neighbourhoods where Muslims with a radical vision of their religion take control of the local population to influence and indoctrinate.
Amongst the proposed measures are legal powers for local officials to combat extremism and a money injection to deal with social problems such as housing and poverty.
Wearing the hijab is already banned in French schools and for public servants at work.
The president stressed in the speech that he does not want the proposal to stigmatise French Muslims or fall into a “trap” laid by radicals. He blamed France itself for organising the “ghettoization” of a population that could easily fall prey to the preaching of some radical Muslims who may substitute their laws for those of the nation.
In the speech, Macron acknowledged how France’s colonial past has contributed to many of the problems in the country today.