France's top court approves controversial 'anti-separatism' law
France’s top court on Friday approved the controversial "anti-separatism" law, which has been slammed by activists for targeting the country's Muslim community.
The bill was voted for by the French National Assembly in July and gives the government extended powers over religious freedoms and the civil service.
France's Constitutional Court's rules that the bill was constitutional after modifying only two provisions, following concerns from around 100 MPs on whether the bill should be enforced.
"Excellent news for the Republic! We welcome...the Constitutional Council's approval of the ‘separatism law," wrote architect of the bill Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Twitter.
The minister added that the legislation will help French President Emmanuel Macron's administrative fight against "those who want to undermine secularism".
The council censured one measure related to refusing residence permits for foreigners who reject the principles for the Republic. The other measure concerned freedom of association, which the council deemed was infringed disproportionately by a suspension clause.
"The law is intended and designed to empower the government at the expense of certain religious liberties," said professor of political science at San Diego State University Ahmet Kuru to France24.
The professor said the bill targeted Muslims despite its language being neutral. "The political context and its process are focused on Islam," he said.
The "anti-separatism” law was introduced following a series of terrorism incidents perpetrated by Islamic radicals, such as the beheading of a school teacher, Samuel Paty, who showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to students.
The bill's sponsors have argued it preserves France's "republican values". However, the new law will have a significant impact on education, social and religious life, women's rights, establishment and management of religious associations.
It has created legal grounds to ban hijab-wearing women from accompanying children on school trips and could also prevent women from wearing burkinis, a form of modest swimwear that covers the entire body.
It allows officials to intervene in mosques and associations responsible for their administration, as well as control the finances of associations and NGOs belonging to Muslims.
It also restricts the educational choices of Muslims by making home schooling subject to official permission.
During its debate period, there was a rise in Islamophobic incidents against the minority community in France, according to activists, who say the law will further marginalise the country's Muslim community.