France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, appearing on the French television LCI on Sunday, said 21 mosques that showed signs of extremism had been closed in the country.
The minister said they recently carried out raids at 99 mosques on suspicion of extremism, and closed 21 of the mosques in question while the process of closing 6 others was underway.
Darmanin further said that these steps were taken on the basis of the so-called “separatist” law.
He said 36 mosques were left open “because they did not contradict the laws of the Republic,” while other mosques were stopped from receiving external funding and the prayer leader of one of the mosques was dismissed on suspicion of extremism.
He later took to Twitter to share details about the action taken by the French government, while emphasizing that the raids on mosques will continue.
99 mosquées étaient soupçonnées de séparatisme sur les 2600 lieux de culte musulmans établis en France. A ma demande, ces 99 mosquées ont toutes été contrôlées au cours de ces derniers mois. pic.twitter.com/ZWcpXDhkyB— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) December 12, 2021
The move is seen as yet another Islamophobic attack targeting the country’s persecuted minority Muslim community, which have seen deep marginalization and witch-hunt in recent years.
On July 2021, the lower house of the French parliament approved a controversial bill targeting religious freedom and stigmatizing Muslims, while tightening rules on the funding of mosques, associations, and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims.
In an act to enforce the law, the main association in defense of Muslims, the CCIF, was also dissolved.
The bill also targeted Muslim girls under the age of 18 by banning the wearing of hijab – a headdress worn by Muslim women – in public places.
Pertinently, Muslim women are banned from sending their children to school in Islamic veil in France.
Months earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron had unveiled a plan to defend what he called France’s secular values against “Islamist radicalism” and claimed that the religion was “in crisis”.
He said “no concessions” would be made in a new drive to eliminate religion from education and public sector in the country.
Human rights groups have raised grave concerns over the law, saying it discriminates and stigmatizes French Muslims.
Last year, two Muslim women wearing headscarves were stabbed near the Eiffel Tower in Paris amid heightened racial tensions, but French state media chose to stay silent on the incident.
It came after the killing of a French teacher by an extremist outside his school in November last year for showing derogatory cartoons of Prophet Muhammad during his class.
This gave an excuse to the French president as he defended the profane caricatures and introduced the legislation targeting so-called Islamic extremism.
The deeply offensive caricatures set off angry protests worldwide. Inside France, a crackdown on the Muslim community saw multiple mosques forced to close, the country’s biggest Muslim charity and an anti-Islamophobia organization banned, and dozens of people arrested.
More than 5 million Muslims live in France, who account for the largest Muslim population in Europe, along with German Muslims.