President emmanuel macron has launched a crackdown on radical islamist separatism in france, announcing plans for strict new controls on religious, cultural and sporting associations and a ban on home schooling.
Mr macrons announcement of a draft law, to be finalised this year, is his latest initiative to reimpose french secular republican values in districts heavily populated by arab and african muslim immigrants seen as vulnerable to falling under the sway of islamists.
He also wants to garner the support of conservative and far-right voters ahead of the next presidential election in 2022 amid continued public concern about terrorism and law and order, political analysts say.
Fourteen alleged associates of the islamist gunmen who attacked the charlie hebdo satirical newspaper and a jewish supermarket in 2015 are on trial in paris. on tuesday, zaheer hassan mahmoud, a pakistani man, was charged with attempted terrorist assassinations after injuring two people with a cleaver outside the former charlie hebdo offices a week ago.
We have built this separatism ourselves, its in our communities and their ghettoisation, said mr macron, accompanied by six government ministers, in a speech on friday in les mureaux north-west of paris, a district where successive french governments have sought to counter what one former premier called social, territorial and ethnic apartheid.
We have built concentrations of poverty and problems...we have created areas where the promises of the republic have not been fulfilled, he added.
The president said that in the yvelines department, where les mureaux is located, 170 people were being monitored for suspected violent radicalisation, and 70 young people had left for syria as jihadis.
He also said 32 terrorist attacks had been foiled by the security services since the start of his mandate three years ago.
Mr macron said the government needed to attack islamist separatism, supporters of which had systematically attempted to build a parallel society in france, and would spend money on integrating communities in difficult suburbs, including investing in youth programmes and schools.
The aim, he said, was to ensure a republican presence at the foot of each tower block, each building, in places where we were retreating.
The president said more than 50,000 children in france were being educated at home and the number was increasing every year. from the start of the school year in september 2021, all children above the age of three would be obliged to attend state registered schools unless exempted for health reasons.
The draft legislation, designed to build on a 1905 law enforcing the separation of church and state, will also tighten controls over the management and financing of cultural associations and places of worship. it will contain an anti-putsch provision to prevent radicals taking control of mosques or other institutions.
Mr macron, a social liberal who was elected president in 2017 as a candidate who was neither right nor left, has sought to court rightwing voters by announcing tougher immigration rules and tightening controls on foreign financing of mosques.
His advisers say the presidents policy of targeting even small infractions of french values of liberty and equality such as the refusal to shake the hand of a female official or the introduction of separate hours for men and women in municipal swimming pools had succeeded in sidelining islamist leaders.
The government has since 2018 designated some districts as areas of republican reconquest, to which it has sent extra police and invested in schools.
In 15 districts where islamist separatism was most evident, the elyse said the authorities had closed 212 food and drink outlets, four schools, 15 prayer halls and 13 associations, and ended widespread social security fraud in which millions of euros had been used to finance islamist activities.