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Global civil society groups push back against Macron's crackdown on Muslims

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 16: French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa (not seen) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on December 16, 2020. ( Julien Mattia - Anadolu Agency )
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa (not seen) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on December 16, 2020 [Julien Mattia - Anadolu Agency]

In the first coordinated global civil society pushback against France's increasingly hostile policies towards its Muslim citizens, over 36 civil society organisations from 13 countries have submitted today formal complaint letters to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.

The letters, seen by MEMO, hold French President Emmanuel Macron and his ministries responsible for the alleged violations of key UN charters: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Charting the history of France's hostility towards Muslims, the 28-page complaints letter "forensically" documents in numerous examples how the French Republic has entrenched "structural Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims."

In their long list of complaints, the groups, which includes legal bodies and human rights organisations, claim that France has "exploited acts of political violence to entrench Islamophobia in policing and the judiciary," that it has been "infringing on freedoms of children, specifically to target Muslim children in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child" and that France, led by Macron, has "a discriminatory agenda".

The letter denounced Macron's deeply controversial plan to deal with what he called "Muslim separatism". The French president outlined his plan in a long-awaited declaration in October, where he claimed that "Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world" and pledged to introduce new measures to "defend the republic and its values."

The speech sparked outrage. French goods were boycotted in a number of countries, while human rights groups accused Macron of using "divisive" language and opting for policies towards Arabs and Muslims that were in line with the extreme right-wing, which calls for the closures of mosques and the imposition of strict control on Muslims.

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The letter calls upon the UN to ensure France upholds and enforces the UDHR and ICCPR and every directive on the prohibition of discrimination and racism. It urges France to enact or rescind legislation where necessary, to prohibit any such discrimination and to take all appropriate measures to combat intolerance on the grounds of religion.

In a statement regarding the joint initiative, a signatory to the letter, UK based rights group MPACUK, stated: "The state-sanctioned Islamophobia that Macron and his administration are enforcing on French Muslim citizens can only be described as draconian and unprecedented. This will undoubtedly embolden Islamophobes across Europe and deepen the persecution of communities that have faced the brunt of 20 years of Islamophobia."

Another signatory, CAGE, an advocacy organisation that campaigns for "due process, the rule of law and an end to the injustices of the war on terror," expressed: "France has seen shocking levels of state-sanctioned Islamophobia in recent months. This has precipitated the closures of mosques, Muslim schools, Muslim-led charities and civil society organisations. As a signatory to the UN, France cannot be allowed to infringe upon its international rights obligations so openly, and yet present itself as the land of 'liberté, égalité, fraternité'."

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