Jul 24, 2021 13:06 UTC
  • French parliament approves anti-Muslim bill despite widespread opposition

The French parliament has after a months-long debate passed a controversial anti-Muslim bill despite strong criticisms from lawmakers who assert that the legislation breaches religious freedom.

The French National Assembly -- France’s lower house -- approved the so-called Anti-Separatism Bill after seven months of controversy on Friday, with the government saying the legislation was needed to bolster the country’s secular system.

Passed by 49 votes to 19 and with five abstentions, the bill, which the French government claims is aimed at fighting "Islamist extremism," will go to the Constitutional Council before President Emmanuel Macron signs the legislation into law.

Many French Muslims say the law limits religious freedom and unfairly targets them.

France’s main opposition parties, including the Socialists (PS) and the center-right Les Republicans, along with the French Communist Party, voted against the bill. The far-right National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, abstained from the vote.

In a fiery speech, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon railed against the "anti-Republican law" which he said was "anti-Muslim.”

The Muslim community in France says the law targets Islamic private education by introducing new executive tools facilitating the suspension or closure of Islamic private schools.

It also severely restricts home-schooling, forcing Muslim parents to send their children through the public secular education system where overt religious symbols like the headscarf are forbidden.

The bill was debated in a highly-charged political atmosphere in France after three brutal attacks late last year by extremists and radical groups, including the beheading of a teacher on the outskirts of the capital, Paris.