Two weeks of highly sensitive debates kicked off: Monday in plenary session the National Assembly began consideration of the bill against “separatism”, which should strengthen the arsenal against radical Islamism, a “cure” for a “sick country”.
After about 50 hours of hearings, and then as much for the screening of articles in the special committee, MEPs have been discussing this hearty text “reinforcing respect for the Republican principles” since 16:00 in the House.
Government and majority advocate a “balance” text on a delicate subject in a country where everything related to secularism, at the heart of the Republican Pact, is flammable.
“Our country is sick of separatism, the first of which, Islamism, gangrenes our national unity,” said Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.
For Mr Darmanin, who pilots the bill “separatism” on the government side, secularism that guarantees “religious plurality, the neutrality of the state and its agents, freedom of worship”, is the “remedy for some of what eats us.”
“This text, this majority does not fight religions,” but “Islamist takeover”, argued the minister while part of the left-wing opposition, notably Jean-Luc Mélenchon accuses the government of wanting to “stigmatize” Muslims.
In support of his remarks and while the text plans to tighten the possibilities of closing places of worship, Gérald Darmanin opened the way for an early reopening of the mosque of Pantin (Seine-Saint-Denis) closed for six months because he was accused by the authorities of relaying comments that led to the assassination of Samuel Paty on 16 October.
“The faithful of the mosque are cleaning their homes,” congratulated the minister.
Executive and majority officials have so far managed to defuse internal or left-wing controversy, as for example on the issue of veil.
“The text was well done upstream and it created a calm climate in form. We made those who predicted it would be a political slaughter,” said one LREM MP.
This does not prevent the offensive of oppositions, especially on the right.
The boss of the LR deputies Damien Abad deplores the fact that the project stalled the “migration issue, radicalization in our prisons or in our private enterprises”.
The LR will unveil a counter-project on Tuesday. Marine Le Pen has already presented on Friday its counter-proposal to banish “Islamist ideologies” and ban the wearing of sailing throughout the public space.
70 articles to be considered
On the government side, besides Gérald Darmanin, Eric Dupond-Moretti (Justice), Jean-Michel Blanquer (Education) and Marlène Schiappa (Citizenship) are on the bench to defend a text that an opposition MP considers “riquiqui” and “tote tout”.
On the menu, 70 articles examined according to a “scheduled legislative time” of 40 hours to frame the debates (excluding speeches by ministers and rapporteurs). Almost 2,650amendments have been tabled.
The bill provides for a series of often “technical” measures on the neutrality of public service, the fight against online hatred, family education, enhanced control of associations, better transparency of worship and their financing, and also the fight against certificates of virginity, polygamy or forced marriages.
He must translate Emmanuel Macrons speech on October 2 at the Mureaux, where the head of state had presented his long-awaited strategy to fight radical Islam.
On the left, we regret the weakness of the social aspect and measures to combat discrimination.
“In the end, the bill is blind because it does not deal with segregation, social, territorial separatism, school mix,” said the communist Stéphane Peut.
“It is a law of injunctions. It does not give life to any of the principles of the Republic”, underlines the Socialist Boris Vallaud.
This critical finding echoes up to the left wing of LREM. Several MEPs recall that the “fight against discrimination and inequality” is also part of the “Republican promise”.
The Government is arguing for a future plan for equal opportunities.