NGOs Call on The EU to Pressure France to Respect Muslims

A broad coalition of human rights organisations call on the EU president to ensure that France respects the rule of law when dealing with its Muslim population.

In an “urgent call to action,” a coalition of 25 civil society organisations and NGOs spanning 11 countries have called on European Union (EU) President Ursula von der Leyen to investigate France over its treatment of Muslims.

The coalition, which includes the Council of France’s Black Associations, Collective Against Islamophobia in the Netherlands and CAGE, the UK based human rights organisation, has called on the EU President to take “immediate action against France for its state-sponsored Islamophobia, and for imposing the discriminatory and human rights-violating Imam’s Charter.”

France has long had an uneasy approach towards Islam and its Muslim population. The country banned the hijab in high schools in 2004.

The then-President Jacques Chirac called the hijab an “aggressive” symbol that would no longer be “tolerated.”

Since then, every consecutive French president has chosen a confrontational approach towards the country’s 5.4 million Muslims.

President Emmanuel Macron’s attitude towards Muslims has gone into overdrive as his popularity has waned with the far-right leader Marine Le Pen leading in the polls ahead of next year’s presidential elections.

Now the global coalition of civil society organisations is seeking to grab the attention of the EU’s highest figurehead, arguing that the country’s Muslim population have “no real or effective remedy within the French legal system to stop the continuation of structural and systemic Islamophobia by the French government.”

Macron’s recent announcement that he wants to see a “Charter of Imams” enforced, which would be a set of principles that define an ‘Islam of France’ has been condemned by the country’s Muslim population.

The coalition of civil societies is now warning the EU president that such a charter “violates the religious, political and civil rights of France’s Muslim citizens.”

“The Imam’s charter is discriminatory by nature because it exclusively demands that the Muslim community sign it. Muslims must expressively prove through a special contract that they support the ‘Republican values’ of the country – a position made all the more innocuous when it is these very ‘values’ that are being weaponised to abuse them,” added the statement.

The statement goes on to say the “European Commission President must intervene to not allow a precedent to be set which will pose long-term damage to not only Muslims but other communities in France.”

In 2020, the French government began investigating 51 mainly Muslim charities intending to dissolve them. The country’s largest Muslim charity was abruptly closed in November of last year without judicial process but by the country’s increasingly right-wing Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin.

According to the coalition appealing to the EU, the Muslim community in 2020 saw an “onslaught” by a state determined to clam down on the community resulting in the closure of three schools, madrassas, and Muslim-owned businesses.

In December of last year, the only Muslim school in Paris catering to Muslims was closed down by authorities which its founders believed was because Muslim girls were allowed to wear the hijab.

France’s interior minister Darmanin even surprised Marine Le Pen recently in a televised debate accusing the far-right leader of being “soft on Islam.”

Now the human rights organisations are directly appealing to the EU to investigate the motives behind France’s spate of “serious human rights violations” and make sure that the country “makes all efforts to enact laws to prevent discrimination against Muslims.”

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