Dec 16, 2020

French ban on homeschooling targets Islamist extremism

French ban on homeschooling targets Islamist extremism
DECEMBER 7, 2020

Homeschooling will be banned for all children in France from the age of three as President Emmanuel Macron presses ahead with plans to clamp down on radical Islam.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, a hardline conservative who Mr Macron appointed in July to head his security push, said the aim was to save “these children who are outside the scope of the republic”. He was referring to the several thousand children, and ­especially girls, who are educated at home by fundamentalist families and disappear off the radar of the education system.

About 50,000 children receive home education in France out of 12 million pupils.

A draft law to curb the spread of a radical “separatist” culture in France’s big Muslim population will receive cabinet endorsement this week. However, the homeschooling ban may be struck out of the law as unconstitutional when it is examined by the state Constitutional Council, the government has been warned.

All children in France will have to attend recognised schools once they turn three and will be recorded with individual identification numbers in the education system.

The so-called “law to strengthen republican principles”, drafted over the past two years, is the main plank in Mr Macron’s offensive to curb the hardline Islamist doctrines that foster what he calls a “separatist” mentality and feed terrorism. The bill has been given extra impetus by three terrorist ­attacks since late September in which four people were knifed to death, including Samuel Paty, a Parisian school teacher who was beheaded after he showed pupils caricatures of Muhammad.

The anti-separatism law has been prefaced by a police crackdown on 76 mosques and prayer groups, out of 2600 in France. Several have been closed and foreign imams expelled.

Under the new rules, Muslim leaders will be required to sign a commitment to French “republican” values, including equality between the sexes and the exclusion of religion from public life. The signatories must “refuse all political Islam and all foreign interference”, the Elysee Palace said.

Foreign financing of the faith will be ended and foreign imams will be phased out and replaced with French-trained prayer leaders. Mosques and prayer halls will come under close scrutiny and state officials will be given power to override decisions by town mayors that breach France’s strict exclusion of religion from public life. These include such things as women-only hours in swimming pools and sports centres.

Mr Macron’s team wants the state apparatus to flush out ­extremists, who they say are ­poisoning the minds of the disaffected young in the poor non-white towns that ring the big cities.

“We are using the Al Capone method,” a presidential aide told the Journal du Dimanche, referring to the way the FBI brought down the gangster by prosecuting him over tax evasion. “We are looking at the radicals’ environment, where they work, where they pray, where their children go to school, what restaurants they use.”

The anti-radical clampdown has been accepted without criticism by the established Muslim authorities, including the French Council of the Muslim Faith and the Paris Grand Mosque.

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