French police have launched a series of raids on mosques and prayer halls across the country as part of what Emmanuel Macron has called a crackdown on “political Islam”.
The drastic action follows a series of terror attacks and will see all of France’s 2,600 places of Muslim worship inspected, with plans already in place to close dozens.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the first wave of raids, beginning today in Paris, were part of “a massive and unprecedented action against separatism”. “Seventy-six mosques suspected of separatism are going to be inspected in the coming days and those that should be closed will be closed,” he told French radio station RTL.
The right-wing minister, appointed by Macron in July, has been tasked with leading “an offensive against what Macron calls the separatist doctrines that incite terrorism and hostility towards the French nation and its values”, says The Times.
In a leaked note sent to regional security chiefs, Darmanin cited 16 specific addresses in the Paris region and 60 others around the country that are of concern to the ministry, France 24 reports.
Darmanin told RTL radio that only a small number of France’s Muslim places of worship were suspected of spreading extremism, adding: “We are far from a situation of widespread radicalisation. Nearly all Muslims in France respect the laws of the Republic and are hurt by that [radicalisation].”
Macron’s crackdown began in September but was accelerated following the beheading of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty in Paris and the murder of three people in an attack in Nice in October.
The French president has used the term “political Islam” to describe “ultraconservative Muslims closing themselves off from French society by, for example, enrolling their children in underground Islamic schools or forcing young girls to wear the Muslim headscarf”, says France 24.
In a speech in early October, Macron told a Paris audience that Islam was “a religion that is in crisis today all over the world”.
He spoke of a need to “free Islam in France from foreign influences” and build an “Islam des Lumières”, meaning “Islam of Light”.