In 2004 it was the Socialist Party that banned the hijab in schools and in 2010, President Sarkozy from the centre-right The Republicans banned the niqab using terrorism laws.
Darmanin absurdly declared the amendment would harm “religious pluralism” in France, yet in the months before tabling the bill he talked of his horror of halal-only food aisles in supermarkets and in an interview in La Voix du Nord floated the idea that Muslim women who refused medical treatment from male doctors could face heavy fines or even jail sentences.
What is going on in France is nothing short of an inquisition. Even a charitable reading of the legislation would surmise it is aimed at all Muslims who observe Islam in their lives.
Its objective is to remove the usual organising capacities in Islamic communities that help foster a commitment to faith and at the same time forcibly convert young Muslims to embrace more stridently the commitments of the secular liberal republic.
Recently, Darmanin had to reprimand two “overzealous” police officers when they asked a group of topless sunbathers to cover up on a beach, tweeting “it was wrong that the women were warned about their clothing” and “freedom is something precious”, yet the same respect is not afforded to Muslim women, who face a daily barrage of racist slurs, discrimination and suspicion.
Some commentators have rightly pointed out that Macron’s poor handling of the Covid crisis and the ‘Yellow Vest’ movement has harmed his prospect for re-election, citing the surge of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in the polls.
Le Pen broke through to the second round in the last presidential election, a first for the French far-right.