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Amnesty condemns controversial French bill

French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Head of Libya’s Presidential Council Mohammad Menfi and Vice President of the Libyan Presidential Council Moussa Al-Koni at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France on 23 March 2021. [Julien Mattia - Anadolu Agency]
French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, France on 23 March 2021 [Julien Mattia/Anadolu Agency]

Amnesty France on Tuesday urged the Macron government to withdraw discriminatory provisions adopted in an amended version of a controversial bill confirming respect for the principles of the Republic that targets the French Muslim population, Anadolu Agency reported.

The rights group expressed concerns about the bill passed Monday by the Senate that includes new amendments under the guise of fighting extremism.

The right-wing dominated Senate modified the text of the bill by introducing amendments to toughen the proposed law.

They include prohibitions of religious symbols for parents on school trips, burkini in public swimming pools, preventing minor girls from concealing their faces or wearing religious symbols in public, a ban on prayers on university premises and displaying foreign flags at weddings.

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Jean-Francois Dubost, head of population protection at Amnesty France, said the provisions were contrary to international human rights law.

"Secularism or neutrality do not constitute legitimate grounds for banning religious signs or clothing," according to Dubost, who said that while the amendments have been worded in a neutral way, debates around adoption have specifically targeted Muslims.

"This stigma and attempts to introduce discriminatory provisions must stop," he said.

Calls for boycott of French products - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Calls for boycott of French products – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Amnesty urged members of a Joint Committee, which will inspect the text of the bill, to reject discriminatory changes made by the Senate and withdraw provisions related to wearing religious clothing and symbols.

"Dress rules imposed in public places, including rules aimed at either prohibiting or requiring the wearing of specific clothing, may constitute a violation of the right to freedom of expression or the right to manifest one's religion or beliefs," said Dubost.

The bill "consolidating respect for the principles of the Republic" was widely criticized by Amnesty and other rights associations for being incompatible with international law.

It provides legislative measures against homeschooling, virginity certificate, polygamy as well as strengthening regulation on foreign funding of religious associations, education and neutrality of the public service.

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