France updates

November 2022

  • 2022 National Strategic Review launched, emphasis on Republican values woven in
  • Belgium moves towards handing over Imam Iquioussen to France for deportation
  • Two Imams to be expelled for accusations including ‘Salafism’ and ‘proselytism’
  • School religious attire controversy leads to Education Ministry “secularism plan”

2022 National Strategic Review launched, emphasis on Republican values woven in

  • Emmanuel Macron launched the new “National Strategic Review” – a document which outlines the key guidelines of France’s international strategy.
  • The document identifies 10 strategic objectives to be achieved by 2030  in order for the Nation to safeguard its sovereignty and reassert its influence.Among them includes the aim to establish a “united and resilient” France through the promotion of a “sustainable spirit of defence in society and the state”, whereby

“The individual moral strengths of the citizen, especially our youth, are the foundation of collective resilience. They should be strengthened in the educational field, in order to increase the skills that strengthen the resilience of society (transmission of Republican values, first aid, etc.).” (emphasis added)

  • In the French political context, “the values and principles of the Republic” are mainly used to oppose the constructed notion of “Islamist separatism” – often used to mask the targeting of Islam and Muslims by the State.This conflict has materialised into the closure of numerous Islamic schools and mosques, and fear-mongering controversy over “religious attire” worn by Muslims in public schools – all justified, according to the State, by the need to protect and implement ‘Republican values’.
  • As a natural consequence of this reasoning, Islam and Muslims are overt factors undermining ‘cohesion’ and ‘resilience’. In other words, according to France’s policy makers, the prerequisites conditioning France’s success on the international stage can be undermined by a minority’s way of life.

Belgium moves towards handing over Imam Iquioussen to France for deportation

Two Imams to be expelled for accusations including ‘Salafism’ and ‘proselytism’

  • Two imams – non French citizens – are also being targeted by the state.
  • Both have been subject to administrative procedures and will have to leave the country soon.
  • The accusations levelled against them revolve around Salafism, proselytism and delinquency.

School religious attire controversy leads to Education Ministry “secularism plan”

  • The controversy about religious attire in public schools, stirred by the media and major political figures as part of a supposed ‘Islamist offensive’, has led to the publication of a “secularism plan” by the Ministry of the Education.It advises the systematic sanctioning of students whose behaviour challenges the principle of laicité (French secularism).
  • These sanctions include legal procedures to be applied in cases of alleged “incitement to religious hatred, discrimination, defamation or terrorism [apologism]”, establishing a clear nexus between laicité and policing within schools, and exposing young students to state security and harassment.
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October 2022

  • Muslim school principal convicted after “systematic obstruction” judicial procedure
  • Belgian authorities refuse French extradition request, release Hassan Iquioussen from prison
  • Local intelligence produce documents linking religious attire to “Islamist offensive”
  • Immigration Bill continues to be delayed
  • Far-right mobilise in Lyon following murder

Muslim school principal convicted after “systematic obstruction” judicial procedure

  • MHS was a private high school targeted by the “systematic obstruction” pressure strategy.A minor safety breach was used by authorities to justify the most extreme sanction: a permanent closure of the school.
  • Consequently, through a judicial process, the school principal was convicted and cannot open nor direct any school, or teach any minor.
  • Despite no remedial work being undertaken to address the supposed safety issues, the school building is now home to a Jewish private school – further proof that the closure of the school is rooted in the state’s anti-Muslim persecution, first and foremost.

Belgian authorities refuse French extradition request, release Hassan Iquioussen from prison

  • French imam Hassan Iquioussen was released from prison in Belgium where he was held after fleeing from France, where he is subject to an expulsion order.He has to remain in Belgium and has been placed under electronic monitoring.
  • French courts placed a European arrest warrant on Iquioussen after he left France, and had been expecting Belgian authorities to extradite him to France.They have thus far not complied with the order, with Tournai council in Belgium deciding against it on the grounds that the offence concerned is not recognised in Belgium.
  • Iquioussen is subject to an expulsion order issued by the French government, after being accused of politicised charges for pronouncements he made – including pro-Palestine stances, and opposition to Islamophobia.

Local intelligence produce documents linking religious attire to “Islamist offensive”

This refers to the wearing of

    • Abayas
    • Qamis
    • Long and/or large dresses
  • It was reported that a school principal asked the supervisors to draft a list of Muslims wearing hijab outside of the school so as to double check their attire, once in school, wasn’t “religious” (long dresses etc).
  • The 2004 French law on secularism and conspicuous religious symbols in schools prohibits the wearing of “ostentatious religious signs”.Despite the intentionally broad and generic language used in the law – in order to avoid being accused of overt discrimination – it was adopted fundamentally to oppose the wearing of hijab.However, this broadness now allows the state to potentially target other items of clothing beyond the hijab.

Immigration Bill continues to be delayed

  • The Bill is designed to facilitate the expulsion of ‘illegal foreigners’, and should be seen as the government conceding to and reinforcing anti-migrant agitation whipped up by Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party.

Far-right mobilise in Lyon following murder

  • A massive far-right led protest – called after the murder of a girl by an Algerian woman –  was organised in Lyon.
  • The local prefect – who holds the authority to oppose any protest if deemed dangerous to public order – didn’t use his powers to prevent it.The mayor of Lyon has appealed to President Macron to act against instigators of the protest, and an investigation was subsequently opened into “incitement to racial hatred”.
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September 2022

  • Latest “Systematic Obstruction” data released
  • Macron delivers key speech to prefects, announcing campaign to target Islamic private schools
  • Report on UAE lobbying illustrates deep infiltration of French politics
  • Hassan Iquioussen caught in Belgium while evading French expulsion order
  • Muslim school denied property sale following smears by magazine and French government unit

Latest “Systematic Obstruction” data released

  • The Ministry of the Interior unveiled the latest data on the “Systematic Obstruction.”Since February 2018 there have been:
  • 26614 investigations
  • 836 closures
  • €55,9 million seized.
  • This represents a further 164 closures and over €10 million seized since October 2021.

Macron delivers key speech to prefects, announcing campaign to target Islamic private schools

  • Macron announced that a control campaign targeting Islamic private schools was about to commence.
  • He also stated that “the fight against terrorism is absolutely key, this prevention policy and what has been done by our national and territorial intelligence services must continue.
  • He asked the prefects (local representative of the state) to “never give in” regarding the implementation of these policies.

Report on UAE lobbying illustrates deep infiltration of French politics

  • A piece published by Orient XXI highlighted the UAE’s extensive lobbying strategy in France, including its areas of influence, and outcomes.
  • The UAE has exercised lobbying efforts through communication offices (French branch of the British Project associates), media outlets (through a share in Euronews), think tanks (the Bussola Institute), some MPs and an ex-general in order to :
    • Promote a positive image of the UAE
    • Promote the fight against “political Islam”, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood
  • Key wins as part of this lobbying strategy include:
    • Having Emirati Minister of the Interior, Ahmed Al-Raisi, elected as Interpol President in November 2021
    • French Senator publishing a book on terrorism financing where Qatar and the MB “connections” are identified.
    • 3 French MPs travelling to the UAE and Saudi Arabia to stress the importance of French-Emirati cooperation in the fight against terrorism and political Islam.
    • UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan speaking to the French Minister of the Economy, who later stated that“I had with one of our most reliable allies in the Gulf, crown prince Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates. He told me it was time that we opened our eyes to what was happening in France. For political Islam, the Great Satan was no longer the United States, it is Europe and France.(emphasis added)
  • The article identifies UAE lobbying as a key influence in France’s moves to bolster its fight against “islamism” during Macron’s term – which includes the deeply Islamophobic Anti-Separatism Law passed in 2021.
  • Also significant is that the French ambassador to the UAE has been promoted to Emmanuel Macron’s personal diplomatic cell.

Hassan Iquioussen caught in Belgium while evading French expulsion order

  • Following an international manhunt, French imam Hassan Iquioussen was arrested on the 30th of September in Belgium.He is being held in a detention centre. A court will decide if he must be sent back to France on the 21st of October.
  • Iquioussen is subject to an expulsion order issued by the French government, after being accused of politicised charges for pronouncements he made – including pro-Palestine stances, and opposition to Islamophobia.

Muslim school denied property sale following smears by magazine and French government unit

  • The prefect had initially given its approval but backtracked once :
  • The magazine Charlie Hebdo published an article on the school, labelling the institution as being “close to the Muslim Brotherhood”.
  • The mayor contacted the CIPDR, which seems to have shared its concerns and opposition to the prefect
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August 2022

  • French Supreme Court rubber stamps Imam’s expulsion order, setting dangerous precedent
  • French Interior Minister boasts of expelling 734 individuals from French territory, signals his intention to continue
  • Major reforms to French diplomatic structure threatens to erode its soft power projection
  • Muslim sports club manager fired for expressing his faith, following pressure by local authorities and former government minister
  • Mosque burnt down in arson attack

French Supreme Court rubber stamps Imam’s expulsion order, setting dangerous precedent

  • On the very day the ruling was unveiled, the Ministry sent police officers to expel Imam Iquioussen. To their dismay he had already left his house and could not be found.
  • The subsequent manhunt was covered live on national news, and according to the Ministry of the Interior, Iquioussen was believed to be in Belgium.
  • A European warrant arrest has been issued: if found, he will be brought back to France, tried for his escape, and then expelled to Morocco.

French Interior Minister boasts of expelling 734 individuals from French territory, signals his intention to continue

  • The French government’s open promotion of such draconian powers mirrors the British government’s staunch defence of deportations and executive powers such as citizenship deprivation, and is a chilling indication of the tenor of French politics.

Major reforms to French diplomatic structure threatens to erode its soft power projection

  • The French diplomatic service is currently undergoing a major structural reform which will lead to the appointment of non-professional and untrained diplomats to its forces.
  • While ostensibly being carried out as part of a modernising drive, this effectively amounts to a politicisation of the diplomatic service, turning them from professionals into partisans of the government.President Macron has previously made clear his displeasure with the independence of diplomats.
  • The French diplomatic network is currently the 3rd largest in the world and is regarded as the main factor in maintaining France’s international influence, despite its  average economic and military strength for a western nation.The shift towards including untrained diplomats is expected to erode France’s capacity to protect its interests and project its influence and policies  in the world.

The French diplomatic and consular apparatus guarantees that France today holds a rank congruent with its seat in the United Nations Security Council.“

“It is necessary to suspend the reform until the Estates General or conference on diplomacy…can be held…Similarly, it is essential to open an in-depth dialogue with the competent committees of the Parliament, so that a constructive debate can be held on these issues.”

  • Nonetheless the reform – strongly desired by Macron – is underway and will be fully implemented by January 2023.

Muslim sports club manager fired for expressing his faith, following pressure by local authorities and former government minister

  • Taqwa Pinero was appointed as a general manager for an important French Basketball club.After sharing a post on Facebook – “I am a living product of what Allah can do for someone with unrelenting faith” – local authorities including pressurised the club into firing Taqwa Pinero, claiming that the roots of the club were “Catholic” while simultaneously invoking the principle of laicité (French secularism).
  • François Bayrou – founder and President of the centrist political party MoDem, ex-government minister and longterm supporter of President Macron – was among those pressuring the club to fire Pinero.
  • As a result, Taqwa Pinero was fired and the American owners sold the team.

Mosque burnt down in arson attack

  • The mosque of the small city of Rambouillet was burnt down to the ground in an arson attack.
  • Muslims in Rambouillet have been unsuccessfully trying to acquire land to build a permanent mosque for years – with obstruction by local authorities suspected as being a cause.
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July 2022

  • National Debate on Immigration to be held in autumn
  • EU-inspired legislation on managing online content adopted by Parliament
  • BARKHANE operation: N’Djamena airbase change of command
  • Hassan Iquioussen expulsion case

National Debate on Immigration to be held in autumn

  • The French Prime Minister and the Ministry of the Interior have announced that a national debate on immigration will be held this autumn.
  • An “immigration Bill” could be presented in Parliament as a result of the debate.
    One of the aims of the Bill would be to facilitate the expulsion of non-French imams from national territory for their Islamic teachings – framed by the State as opposed to the “Values of the Republic”.

EU-inspired legislation on managing online content adopted by Parliament

  • The legislation grants censorship powers to a state agency, which can request the removal of “terrorist content” to the internet service provider. Once the request is received, removal will have to take place within an hour.
  • The legal definition of “terrorist content” is broad enough to be abused by the government.
  • The Bill forms part of moves by Western governments to claim greater control over the online space and social media and wrest control from internet service providers.This includes the EU’s recent Digital Services Act, which directly inspired this Bill, and Britain’s Online Safety Bill currently making its way through Parliament.

BARKHANE operation: N’Djamena airbase change of command

  • Since February 2022 France armies have started to withdraw from the Sahel region – where it has been carrying out its ‘Operation Barkhane’ counter-terror operation since 2014. However, it was announced that some forces would remain to cooperate with local authorities to fight “terrorist armed groups”.
  • The N’Djamena airbase in Chad has been home to the French General Staff since the inception of the operation, and was headed by colonel Patrice Tromparent.On the 14th of July, colonel Frédéric Ledoux succeeded him. He will be in charge of overseeing the new role of the base – i.e. the cooperation between the French and Chadian forces in their struggle against “terrorism”.

Hassan Iquioussen expulsion case

  • Hassan Iquioussen has been an Imam for nearly three decades. He has never been charged or convicted of any crime but is now being targeted by the French State for expulsion and exile from French territory. Here are some of the accusations held against him :
    • Islamic family norms taught by Iquioussen are regarded as clear violations of the principle of equality between men and women and become a justification to his expulsion.
    • His pro-Palestine stances are framed as a form of antisemitism.
    • His passive calls to oppose Islamophobia – namely his call for people to “wake up” – are interpreted as covert exhortations to violence.
    • Iquioussen’s criticism of the movie Scarface and its influence on young Muslims is regarded as proof of his religious extremism.
  • Imam Iquioussen submitted a complaint before a court which suspended the execution of the expulsion order.However, the Ministry of the Interior appealed the decision and the French Supreme Court – which has a history of setting Islamophobic precedents – is set to rule on the case before the end of August.
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June 2022

  • ‘Trial of the Century’ into 2015 Bataclan attacks concludes
  • France repatriates minors from Syrian camps
  • New objective for National Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism
    Coordinator
  • Islamophobic statements made by key members of government
  • Supreme Court backs local ‘Burkini’ ban

‘Trial of the Century’ into 2015 Bataclan attacks concludes

  • The trial of the November 2015 Bataclan attacks in Paris, dubbed the ‘Trial of the Century’ by French media, concluded in June.
  • Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving attacker, will serve a life sentence – meaning a minimum 30 years sentence before a potential, though highly unlikely, release on licence.

France repatriates minors from Syrian camps

  • France repatriated 35 minors and 16 mothers who were detained in prison camps in Syria, in the first grouped repatriation of French families since the fall of the Islamic State in 2019.It follows a series of international condemnations by international NGOs and institutions – including the UN Committee on the Rights for the Child which asked the French State “to take positive and urgent measures, acting in good faith, to effect the repatriation of the child victims.
  • The UK has also been criticised sharply for its approach to repatriating British nationals from the camps, including for operating a de facto policy of separating children from mothers, and its use of citizenship stripping powers on Britons to wash its hands of the problem.

New objective for National Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Coordinator

Interministerial coordination of the human resources policies of the intelligence services, in conjunction with the ministries concerned and under the authority of the Prime Minister.

  • This decision will allow the Coordinator to fully exercise its function of steering the intelligence services’ policies, including in the field of human resources. He will likely oversee the recruitment process and the staff distribution.
  • The current Coordinator is Laurent Nunez, an ex-prefect who also served as a Secretary of State in the Ministry of the Interior from 2018 to 2020, when the Systematic Obstruction policy was secretly being implemented. He is in charge of the intelligence services’ cooperation – including in the field of counter-terrorism.

Islamophobic statements made by key members of government

  • In a telling indication of how the new French government will approach the question of ‘Islamism’ over the course of Emmanuel Macron’s second term, some ministers have made forceful statements on the matter.

Islamism is a deadly poison. We will continue to hunt it down and fight it with all our might

and Pap Ndiaye, Minister of Education claiming that

There is no state racism, but there can be racism in the state (…)

The problem are the Islamists who are carrying out a political project to destroy the Republic, the terrorists, not a mother who puts a scarf on her head to accompany a class, which she has every right to wear. We must not fight the wrong battle. We can show tolerance without being naive.

Supreme Court backs local ‘Burkini’ ban

  • This suspension has been made possible by a provision of the “Anti-Separatism” Law adopted last year which allows the state to object to local decisions which oppose laicité – French secularism.
  • The “burkini controversy” has been raging in France almost every summer since 2016.
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May 2022

  • Emmanuel Macron announces new government
  • Developments in the Republican Spring movement
  • Supreme Court overturns dissolution order
  • Beauvais mosque wins case against closure, but sets dangerous precedent
  • Supreme Court to rule on ‘Burkinis’
  • Attacks on mosques in Southern France
  • National training on the “struggle against separatism”
  • French intelligence mapping exercise revealed

Emmanuel Macron announces new government

  • Emmanuel Macron announced the members of his new government on 21st May.Gérald Moussa Darmanin remains Minister of the Interior, in charge of national security and therefore of the implementation of France’s Islamophobic security policies.
  • The retention of Darmanin in the government should be seen as a message of intimidation and warning directed towards the Muslim community by the Macron government.This government is subject to change based on the outcome of the legislative elections in June.

Developments in the Republican Spring movement

  • The Islamophobic and ultra-secularist ideological movement “Republican Spring” has clearly voiced its support for Macron.
    Nonetheless, and despite their political ambition, almost no members of the movement were endorsed by Macron’s party to run for a seat in Parliament for the legislative elections.
  • Despite the strong feeling of disappointment, their support of Marcon remains intact and their influence is expected to increase in the years to come, bolstering the sharply repressive moves undertaken by the Macron government.
  • Despite some of their recent public statement, it has been revealed that they are actively advocating for a complete hijab ban, for example.

Supreme Court overturns dissolution order

Beauvais mosque wins case against closure, but sets dangerous precedent

  • The mosque of Beauvais won its case before a French Administrative Court.
    A few months ago, it was closed down because its Imam held a dars on the lessons of the battle of Uhud .While constituting a legal victory, the political precedent that it represents is rather more limited.
  • The Court decided to reopen the masjid only after its board conceded to pressure and:
    • Expelled the imam
    • Deleted the videos of his statements
    • Included in its legal status their attachment to the “Republican values” of the State
    • A member of the board who shared the video on social media stepped down from his position.
  • This means there is now a clear jurisprudence which outlines the path any masjid needs to engage in in case of a forced closure :
    • Expelling the imam who voiced religious beliefs or opinions the State deems illegal – and any key member of the masjid who supported or shared them publicly.
    • Deleting any reference or recording of the statements.
    • Include a clear allegiance to the values of the State

Supreme Court to rule on ‘Burkinis’

Attacks on mosques in Southern France

  • A mosque in the South-West of France and another one in the South-East were vandalised, calling for the removal of Islam from France.

National training on the “struggle against separatism”

  • SG-CIPDR (General Secretariat of the Comité Interministériel de Prévention de la Délinquance et de la Radicalisation) – offical governmental body overseeing the implementation of the Islamophobic “Systematic Obstruction” policy – delivered a national training session on the “struggle against separatism” to the members of the “departmental cells”.
  • These cells are the organs in charge of gathering and sharing informations on the Muslim population, information which is then used by local authorities to justify investigations and closures of Muslim establishments.

French intelligence mapping exercise revealed

  • It has been discovered that the French Intelligence Services – the “DGSI” – produced a map of 150 neighbourhoods or “micro-territories” in 2020, a few months after the Systematic Obstruction’s scope was broadened to the national level.
  • This document is classified and cannot be accessible to the public. It was shared with the Ministry of the Interior and it is highly probable that it was used to target these areas.
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