France arrests Muslim NGO head amid pushback against 'separatism' law

France arrests Muslim NGO head amid pushback against 'separatism' law
Idriss Sihamedi's detention comes amid heightened tensions between France's government and its Muslim community.
2 min read
15 October, 2020
France's Muslims have criticised the new 'separation' law [Getty]

French police on Wednesday arrested the founder of Islamic charity Barakacity, amid moves by the NGO's founder to challenge the country's new 'separatism' law, which activists say unfairly targets France's Muslim minority.

Barakacity broadcast Idriss Sihamedi's arrest live on its social media feeds, showing the group's president being detained in front of his wife and four children.

"Search this morning at the home of the president of BarakaCity," the group posted on its Facebook and Twitter feeds. 

"Idriss was violently beaten by a police officer who pressed his head against the (floor) tiles while he was not resisting and cooperating," it added.

Footage taken inside Sihamedi's residence after the arrest showed damaged security cameras, torn switches, broken doors and files that investigators appear to have rifled through.

French authorities have yet to comment on the arrest.

Sihamedi's detention comes amid heightened tensions between France and its Muslim community, with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanan having claimed on Tuesday that at least 73 mosques and Islamic private schools across France were closed by authorities since January.

Damarman said the centres were shuttered in a bid to combat "extremist Islam".

In a recently deleted tweet, Darmanin also accused Barakacity head Sihamedi of "condoning terrorism", something strongly rejected by activists and rights groups.

"The targeting of one of the country's biggest Muslim charities, BarakaCity and its president Idriss Sihamedi, who is a vocal advocate for Muslim rights, sends a clear message that the state is on an open witch hunt of Islam and Muslims," Moazzam Begg, Outreach Director for UK-based human rights group CAGE, said in a statement.

"In the absence of any meaningful charges we demand his immediate release," he added.

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