The lower house of the French parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a controversial bill that would strengthen oversight of mosques, schools, and sports clubs to safeguard its citizens from "radical Islamists" and to promote respect for French values - one of President Emmanuel Macron's landmark projects. After two weeks of intense debate, the legislation was passed by in the National Assembly house with 347-151 votes.
The draft bill was introduced by President Macron last year after a series of attacks by radical Islamists rocked the country. Titled “Supporting respect for the principles of the Republic,” the legislation intends to protect French values, including secularism and harmony. It however received strong criticism from some Muslims, lawmakers, and others who fear the government is intruding on essential freedoms and pointing a finger at Islam, the nation's secondary religion.
On Wednesday, the legislation breezed through a chamber in which Macron's party has a majority and will be tabled in the conservative-controlled Senate after March 30.
The bill gained added urgency after a teacher was beheaded outside Paris in October, followed by a knife attack at three people in Nice. The proposed law bolsters other French efforts to fight extremism, mainly security-based.
The bill will allow law enforcement agencies to quickly detain a person spreading online hate. The bill will enable agencies to charge a person with online hate speech law, which will be punishable by up to three years of imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros. It aims to tackle polygamy by preventing foreign nationals from obtaining French citizenship with more than one spouse. The bill will ban the wearing of hijab in private and public offices. It will make threatening or intimidating elected officials punishable by five years of imprisonment and 75,000 euros fine.
The legislation will also allow French authorities to shut down places of worship found to be propagating hate. It will allow agencies to control foreign funding of religious institutions in France. The proposed bill will also make it illegal for doctors to give virginity certificates to females, making it punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and 15,000 euros fine. Homeschooling will also be banned for pupils over the age of three.
The 'Paty law,' named after Samuel Paty, the teacher beheaded outside his school west of Paris, makes it a crime to endanger the life of a person by providing details of their private life and location. Paty was slain after information about his school was posted in a video.