By Shweta Desai
PARIS (AA) – France on Friday adopted a controversial bill reinforcing the respect of the principles of the Republic, to keep a check on radical Islam and extremism.
The so-called anti-separatism bill was adopted in parliament by a final vote of 49 - 19, with five abstentions.
The bill may have to pass the final hurdle of the Constitutional Council -- the highest constitutional authority which has the right to overrule provisions of approved bills.
Several parties have opposed the text and threatened to seek recourse from the Council on what they deem as discriminatory provisions, particularly to those related to the prohibition of homeschooling.
During the discussion, socialist politician and leader of the La France Insoumise party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, introduced a motion to reject the bill which he said was “anti-republican" and “anti-Muslim." The motion was opposed by lawmakers.
Later, in a series of tweets, Melenchon denounced the text of the bill against Muslims because it “invents a hollow and hazy concept: separatism.”
He said it was shameful that hours were dedicated to discussing “the veil, the burkini, foreign flags at weddings and even ululations” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Florent Boudie of the ruling La Republique en Marche party welcomed the final text which does not contain controversial provisions like prohibiting the wearing of the veil targeting the Muslim community.
He said the provision “would have risked distorting the French conception of secularism."
The bill, however, has an overbearing impact on aspects of education, social and religious life, women’s rights, establishment and management of religious associations.
It bans polygamy or forced marriages, issuance of virginity certificates, making places of worship more transparent and proscribing political meetings in a religious building, among others.
The initial aim of the bill that was backed by President Emmanuel Macron and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin was to fight online hate speech, strengthen regulation on foreign funding of religious associations, ban homeschooling and reinforce the principle of neutrality in public service.
It was introduced for approval of lawmakers in December after France was gripped by a series of extremist attacks, including the stabbings of school teacher Samuel Paty as well as at the Nice cathedral, in the aftermath of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo republishing offensive caricatures that depicted Prophet Mohammad.
Macron defended the publication as freedom of speech and vowed to fight those with “separatist ideologies.”
His comments led to protests against France in Islamic majority countries and drove a further wedge with Turkish President Recep Erdogan.