After a recent series of attacks by extremists, the French cabinet has approved a bill aimed at tackling radical Islam.
The draft law is part of a drive by President Emmanuel Macron to uphold French secular values. It tightens rules on home-schooling and hate speech, and bans “clandestine” schools which promote Islamist ideology.
Prime Minister Jean Castex called it “a law of protection” that would free Muslims from the grip of radicals. He insisted that it text was not “aimed against religions or against the Muslim religion in particular”, the BBC reports.
If passed into law, the bill “supporting Republican principles” would restrict online hate speech and ban the use of the internet to maliciously reveal personal details about other people.
This is seen as a response to the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty in October, following an online campaign against him.
The new law would also reinforce the ban on polygamy by refusing residency to polygamous applicants. Doctors could be fined or banned for performing virginity tests on girls.
The draft law has been under consideration for some time but recent Islamist attacks pushed it up the agenda. Paty’s murder was one of three attacks that outraged France. Three people were killed in stabbings in a Nice church in October.
Two people were stabbed and seriously hurt in September in Paris near the former offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, where Islamist militants carried out a deadly attack in 2015.
President Macron is a staunch defender of French Republican values including state secularism. He has described Islam as a religion “in crisis” and defended the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Macron has become the target of intense criticism in several Muslim-majority countries.
Relations with Turkey, already strained, were further undermined with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan describing the legislation as an “open provocation” and saying Macron was “mentally ill”.