France closes 20 more mosques in new attack on religious freedom

In a new attack on the religious freedom of Muslims, the French government has closed at least 21 more mosques in the country, accusing them of promoting extremism.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, appearing on French television LCI on Sunday, said 21 mosques that showed signs of extremism had been closed in the country.

The minister said he recently raided 99 mosques suspected of extremism and closed 21 of the mosques in question while the process of closing 6 others was underway.

Darmanin added that these measures were taken on the basis of the so-called “separatist” law.

He said 36 mosques had remained open “because they did not contradict the laws of the Republic”, while other mosques were prevented from receiving external funding and the prayer leader of one of the mosques was fired on suspicion of extremism.

He then took to Twitter to share details of the measures taken by the French government, while stressing that raids on mosques would continue.

The move is still seen as yet another Islamophobic attack targeting the country’s persecuted minority Muslim community, which has experienced deep marginalization and a witch hunt in recent years.

In July 2021, the lower house of the French parliament approved a controversial bill targeting religious freedom and stigmatizing Muslims, while toughening the rules on the funding of mosques, associations and non-governmental organizations owned by Muslims.

In a law enforcement act, the main association for the defense of Muslims, the CCIF, was also dissolved.

The bill also targeted Muslim girls under the age of 18 by banning the wearing of the hijab – a headdress worn by Muslim women – in public places.

Relevantly, Muslim women are prohibited from sending their children to school with the Islamic veil in France.

Months earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a plan to defend what he called France’s secular values ​​against “Islamist radicalism” and claimed that religion was “in crisis”.

He said “no concessions” would be made in a new campaign to eliminate religion from education and the public sector in the country.

Human rights groups have expressed serious concerns about the law, saying it discriminates and stigmatizes French Muslims.

Last year, two Muslim women wearing headscarves were stabbed near the Eiffel Tower in Paris amid heightened racial tensions, but French state media chose to remain silent about the incident.

It came after an extremist murdered a French teacher outside his school in November last year for showing derogatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during his class.

This gave the French president an excuse as he defended secular cartoons and introduced legislation targeting so-called Islamic extremism.

The deeply offensive cartoons sparked protests of anger around the world. In France, a crackdown on the Muslim community has seen several mosques closed, the country’s largest Muslim charity and an anti-Islamophobia organization banned, and dozens of people arrested.

Over 5 million Muslims live in France, which is the largest Muslim population in Europe, along with German Muslims.

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