The former Ambassador of France to Israel has called on the government in Paris to crack down on the religion of Islam and Muslims, likening it to the historical persecution of Roman Catholics during the French Revolution.
Gérard Araud, who served as Ambassador to Israel from 2014 to 2019, said on Twitter yesterday: "The Republic, as it did with Catholicism, will have to impose its law on Islam. Let us not forget that she sent the troop to the monasteries and expelled thousands of monks. It was not easy. It may not be, but firmness and common sense pay off."
La République, comme elle l'a fait avec le catholicisme, aura à imposer sa loi à l'islam. N'oublions pas qu'elle a envoyé la troupe dans les monastères et expulsé des milliers de moines. Ce ne fut pas facile. Ça ne le sera peut-être pas mais la fermeté et le bon sens paient.
— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) December 22, 2019
Araud's tweet referred to the widespread persecution of Roman Catholics and the Church in the years of the French Revolution from its beginning in 1789 to the mid-1790s, prior to which the Church and the Vatican controlled much of the governance, land and wealth of France.
Following the revolution, however, the Roman Catholic Church was stripped of its authority and it is estimated that around 30,000 priests were forced to leave France; hundreds more were executed, while others were deported to French colonies and imprisoned.
Their churches and places of worship were also shut down, destroyed or used for other purposes.
The call for similar persecution against the large Muslim community in France in order to prevent "extremism" comes amid the increasing repression of religion within the country.
Due to the radically secular nature of the French government and constitution, religious symbols and the presence of religion in public and civil life are condemned and, in many cases, outlawed.
French Muslims have seen this at first hand over the past few years in particular.
Muslim women are banned from wearing headscarves in government buildings and education institutions; the burqa or face veil has been banned in public completely; and the so-called "burkini" — a loose swimsuit covering the whole body which is used by some Muslim women for modesty — has been banned on beaches and in public swimming pools.
This has led to many saying that the French government is more zealous about promoting the exposure of the female body for sexual objectification than the protection of religious rights.
France has the most Muslims out of all European countries, with around 5 million citizens from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The Muslim population has sparked controversial statements from some of the country's politicians over the years, with many from the political right such as Marine Le Pen of the National Rally party, for example, claiming that it represents an "invasion" and an erosion of the French population.