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Amnesty appeals France to amend anti-Muslim bill before making it a law

Several elements of the bill raise concerns regarding France’s obligations to respect the rights to freedom of association and expression

Tuesday March 30, 2021 0:07 AM, ummid.com News Network

French Bill

London: As the French Senate prepares to debate a law what the government believes “to strengthen respect for the principles of the Republic”, Amnesty International has made a last minute appeal for the many problematic provisions of the bill to be scrapped or amended.

“The proposed legislation would give the French authorities new powers to deny or withdraw funds to certain organizations”, Amnesty International said in statement released Monday.

“Against a backdrop of stigmatizing rhetoric about Muslims and Islam, there are serious concerns that the law will be applied in a discriminatory way”, the rights body said about the bill popularly known as "anti-separatism bill".

The French Senate is set to debate the bill Tuesday. The bill was passed by the country’s lower house National Assembly, which is dominated by President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist La République En Marche (LREM) party, on February 16.

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Appealing the French government to amend or scrap the controversial provisions, Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s Europe Researcher, said:

“This proposed law would be a serious attack on rights and freedoms in France. It would allow public authorities to fund only organizations which sign a ‘contract of republican commitment’ – a vaguely defined concept which is wide open to abuse and threatens the very freedoms of expression and association the French authorities claim to stand for.”

Several elements of the bill raise concerns regarding France’s obligations to respect the rights to freedom of association and expression, and the principle of non-discrimination.

“Amnesty International calls on France to allocate funds in a non-discriminatory manner and to ensure that all organizations, including those that are critical of governmental policies and work on combatting discrimination have the same chances of receiving funding”, the rights body said.

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Macron’s government says the bill will tackle what the president has termed “Islamist separatism” and underscore the country’s secular system.

But critics argue it breaches religious freedom and unfairly targets France’s Muslim minority, which at 5.7 million people is the largest in Europe.

"Radical Islam"

In its statement setting out the justification for the bill, the government mentions the need to strengthen a legal arsenal that is insufficient to tackle “radical Islam”.

“Time and again we have seen the French authorities use the vague and ill-defined concept of ‘radicalization’ or ‘radical Islam’ to justify the imposition of measures without valid grounds, which risks leading to discrimination in its application against Muslims and other minority groups. This stigmatization must end,” said Marco Perolini.


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