France’s lower house voted on Feb. 16 for a law pitched by the government as countermeasure to religious groups that are trying to undermine the secular state.
The law aims at “Islamist separatism” pushed by banned hate preachers and would allow police to shut down religious schools, according to a report at DailyMail.com.
The draft legislation has been accused of stigmatizing Muslims and allowing the state to limit speech and religion, but was backed by a clear majority of MPs in the National Assembly.
President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party supported the law strongly, with 347 National Assembly lawmakers voting in favor, 151 against and 65 abstaining. It will now be sent to the upper house Senate, where Macron’s party does not hold a majority.
Amid concerns about the funding of mosques by Turkey, Qatar or Saudi Arabia, the law forces religious groups to reveal large foreign donations and have their bank accounts certified.
It comes as presidential elections loom next year and among ongoing divisions about the integration of France’s large Muslim population, Sharia law-controlled no-go zones and the threat of Islamists causing fresh tensions.
The government maintains that the threat of creeping Islamism is real, pointing to repeated terror attacks and what Macron called the development of a “counter-society” that rejects secularism, equality and other French values and laws.
Over the past week, a school teacher in a tough suburb southwest of Paris has come to national prominence over claims he needed police protection after receiving death threats for denouncing local Islamists.
Right-wing parties see him as a whistleblower warning about the danger of extremist groups, while those on the left have pointed to his provocative statements about Islam and accuse him of exaggerating the threat.