President Macron announces tougher laws against radical Muslims who build a “counter-society”. Evangelicals reiterate their willingness to work for social unity, and warn against unjustified restrictions of religious freedom.
France is the Western European country with the largest Muslim population (6 million citizens, 9% of the population), and the government fears an extremist minority is making efforts to create a “counter-society”.
In a keenly-awaited speech last week, president Emmanuel Macron said the government would implement a stricter control over the funding of mosques by foreign entities, as well as more oversight on the ability of Muslims children to participate in all areas of society.
According to France 24, the French president said that “Islam is in “crisis” due to “an extreme hardening” of positions.
Macron warned about some extremists who “teach principles that do not conform to the laws of the republic”. More specifically, he expressed concerns about the fact that some Muslim children are being kept out of school, or sportive and cultural activities.
The president said a draft law in December will aim to strengthen state secularism in France.He assured these government plans would not collide with the strong French tradition of “laicité”, which guarantees the separation between state and faith communities.
“Secularism is the cement of a united France (…) Let us not fall into the trap laid by extremists, who aim to stigmatise all Muslims”, Macron said, as he admitted that some “integration policies” have “failed” in the last years.
The National Council of Evangelicals in France (CNEF) responded to the government’s plans by reiterating that evangelicals in the country “respect the laws of the republic”, and seek a “transparent” relationship with the national, regional and local authorities.
Evangelical churches in France are “very integrated in the territories where they are established: open to the public, being factors of cohesion and of social diversity”, the CNEF says. The “new concept of separatism”, therefore, “calls for no reaction among evangelicals, as far as we are concerned”.
[photo_footer]National Council of Evangelicals in France.
Nevertheless, if the government’s plans against Islamist extremism would have side effects on the “freedom of religion, thought and expression”, the CNEF would take a stand.
“The expression of diverse opinions”, including matters of faith, “is a condition of any plural democracy and of any collective intelligence of society”.
In the last years, the body representing evangelicals has “observed, with regret, that evangelical Protestants sometimes are used by the authorities, and by certain media, to apply a kind of ‘egalitarian guarantee’”. The CNEF calls the French authorities not to implement widespread and unjust restrictions of religious freedom to all faith communities only with the aim of giving an impression of equal treatment of all religions.