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New French PM says battle against ‘radical Islamism’ a priority – Al Jazeera English

France’s newly-appointed Prime Minister, Jean Castex, has vowed to be “intransigent” in defending France’s official secularism, promising to fight “radical Islamism in all its forms” as “an absolute priority”.

Unveiling new government policy in Paris on Wednesday, Castex told the National Assembly that the French republic was being “shaken to its foundations” by “the coalition of its enemies – terrorists, conspiracy theorists, separatists and communitarians”.

Castex, a centre-right provincial mayor who graduated from the elite National School of Administration, said a new law to combat “separatism” would be introduced after the summer break.

It would aim to “avoid certain groups becoming closed in around ethnic or religious identities,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron also recently warned against anti-racist movements being taken over by “separatists”, after demonstrations against alleged police violence and racism in Paris – although the president did not say what he meant by the term.

Some members of France’s Muslim minority feel that the country’s official secularism is mainly brandished against them, although Macron himself has condemned divisive approaches to it.

Castex also set out a hard line on violence at demonstrations and petty crime, saying police would be given the resources they needed.

Local judges would be appointed to ensure “day-to-day anti-social behaviour” was punished swiftly, he said.

France, secularism and hijab paranoia | UpFront (Feature)

‘Specifically targets Muslims’

Yasser Louati, head of France’s Justice and Liberties For All Committee, told Al Jazeera that Castex’s use of the term “separatism” is “heavily charged and specifically targets Muslims whose recent mobilisations against racism and Islamophobia irritate the dominant, conservative segment of French society”.

“The recent use of the term ‘separatism’ by Emmanuel Macron marks a new escalation in state-sponsored Islamophobia in that it perpetuates the fantasy of an enemy within, the same way France did with Jews in the past,” Louati said.

“There are no calls for secession, at least not by Muslims. But if the government interprets calls for equality as calls for separatism, then that further exposes the hypocrisy of French institutions that wrap themselves in the banner of human rights and a colour-blind republic, while calling [for] a more violent repression against minorities.”

Human rights groups previously condemned France for carrying out discriminatory raids and house arrests against Muslims after it declared a state of emergency in November 2015.

“The state of emergency that targeted over 5,000 Muslim homes, businesses and places of worship has become permanent, and I fear that the end of the summer will be violent when the government comes back to office,” Louati said.

Castex also said he was taking office at “a very particular moment” in France’s history after the COVID-19 epidemic caused France “one of the most serious crises it has known”.

He said he would be meeting trade unions and employers on Friday to agree on how to approach “all the subjects that are on the table for the coming weeks and months, starting with the plan to restart [the]

economy”.

The assembly approved Castex’s speech by a large majority of 345 votes to 177 and 43 abstentions.

With reporting by Mersiha Gadzo in Toronto, Canada.



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French Police

French police dump handcuffs in protest to rebuff critics – BBC News

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Media captionAngry police in Lille discarded their handcuffs in a protest

Angry police across France have thrown their handcuffs on the ground as they feel “insulted” by claims that they tolerate brutality and racism.

Protesting police also drove in convoy down the Champs-Élysées in central Paris on Friday, sounding their horns.

They rejected any parallels with the Minneapolis police officers whose fatal arrest of George Floyd sparked a wave of anti-racism protests worldwide.

And they are furious with a government ban on the police “chokehold”.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced the ban on Monday, after French protesters took to the streets alleging that police in France exhibited racism towards ethnic minorities, in the same way that US police have been accused of using brutality towards black suspects.

Mr Castaner held talks with police unions on Thursday and they are continuing, as the government seeks to cool an intense racism debate that has re-ignited tensions in some communities.

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AFP

Image caption

Police in central Paris on Friday: “No police, no peace”, the banner reads

There was trouble earlier this month when protesters, inspired by the US anti-racism marches, commemorated Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black Frenchman who died in a 2016 police operation.

Police have also been accused of seriously wounding a 14-year-old boy called Gabriel, when he was detained on suspicion of trying to steal a scooter in Bondy near Paris late last month.

Anti-racism activists plan to march from République to Opéra in central Paris on Saturday. The Paris police department has warned that shops and other businesses in the area should close and board up their windows, as trouble could flare up again.

Police handcuff protests took place on Thursday in Paris, Lille, Rennes, Bordeaux, Toulouse and other cities and continued on Friday morning, with a row of officers discarding their handcuffs at Orly airport near Paris.

Defending the police use of chokeholds, Xavier Leveau of the police union told the AFP news agency that “head restraint is very important during handcuffing”. He insisted it was nothing like the method used in the death of George Floyd.

“We’re not going to hold him down for eight minutes, we’re going to hold him down just for the handcuffing… we don’t have a substitute technique. So how do we do it today?”

He went on: “We are angry at the announcements that are made, where we suspect the police of everything and nothing, whereas in our country the police really reflect the image of its population.

“People think that the police are racist, whereas in our country we have people of all ethnic groups, and we all work well together.”

France’s police watchdog says it received almost 1,500 complaints against officers last year – half of them for alleged violence, AFP reports.

On Monday the interior minister announced the chokehold method “will be abandoned”.

“It will no longer be taught in police and gendarmerie schools. It is a method that has its dangers,” he said.

He vowed that there would be “zero tolerance” of racism in law enforcement and officers strongly suspected of racism would be suspended.

He said too many officers had “failed in their Republican duty” in recent weeks, and he cited cases of racist and discriminatory remarks. “We have to track it down and combat it.”

A Paris police officer quoted by Le Parisien news on Friday said “this government is spineless – all you need is 20,000 hotheads in the street and the government abandons the police”.

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