In what could turn out to be a turning point in the global debate on secularism and religion, France passed a bill in its National Assembly to check the religious fundamentalism in the country.
The bill, called “Reinforcing Republican Principles”, doesn’t name any particular group or religion.
The demand for such a law was growing in the country in the wake of the murder of Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded in October last year by his student for displaying a picture of Prophet Muhammad. Paty was discussing the principle of free speech and expression when he displayed the picture.
French President Emmanuel Macron, in a speech a week after Paty’s murder, emphasised the need to check the growing Islamic fundamentalism in the country. He also talked about the crisis in global Islam and the need to check the foreign influence in France.
The bill, which bans polygamy, has many provisions to check the religious activities in the country.
It bars doctors from issuing ‘virginity certificates’ which are used by the conservatives for “to-be-the-brides”. It also mandates bringing gender equality in sports by banning all gender discriminatory practices.
There can be no home-schooling, popular amongst Muslims, without prior approval from authorities. And, all home-schooled children will be issued a unique identification number like a regular school going kids.
There is also a provision for checking the kind of preachings in religious institutions and if any speech is found to promote conflict and disharmony amongst communities, action would be initiated.
It has been made mandatory for religious institutions to disclose the funds received from foreign sources.
Recently, technology and social media are used by extremists to spread propaganda. The bill has a provision for strict penalty if someone discloses a person’s identity or personal information on social media which puts his/her life in danger.
France has witnessed a number of Islamic terror attacks in the recent past. In 2015, a series of planned terror attacks killed more than 130 people. At the beginning of 2015, the office of Charlie Hebdo, a French magazine, was attacked, resulting in the death of 12 people.
France has been very generous in granting asylum to Muslim refugees fleeing unrest in the Muslim world. It has been granting asylum to a lakh people on average which has recently gone up to two.