Separatism: the tormented story of a burning bill

It was in Bourzwiller that it all started. On February 18, in this popular district of Mulhouse (Haut-Rhin), Emmanuel Macron shakes hands endlessly, without knowing that his political destiny is playing out. He’s all smiles. At 250 m from there, however, there is an evangelical gathering of the Church of the Open Door. It will be one of the major clusters of the epidemic. The entry point of the disease in France, with more than 1000 contaminations which will spread throughout the country …

But the head of state is far from imagining what is happening then. He came to talk about something else: secularism. As the municipal elections approach, he decided to silence the opposition, which said he was embarrassed by the subject. Especially since ten days earlier, the mayors he received at the Elysee Palace urged him to move forward on this minefield: “Mr. President, we need an answer. We have worrying increases in schools, radicalization phenomena in certain sports structures, doubts about the funding of certain cults, ”one of them warned.

So in Mulhouse, Macron launches the offensive: “In the Republic, we must never accept that the laws of religion can be superior to the laws of the Republic”, he slices, the tone firm, before announcing for the coming weeks a great plan against radicalization and political Islam. With this formula, for the first time used in public: “Islamist separatism”. Expression with which he confesses to feel “more at ease” than that of “communitarianism”, on the pretext that it “stigmatizes”.

Anniversary of the law of 1905

A great plan, accompanied by a law, therefore. The promise was confirmed in early October during a second speech, that of Mureaux (Yvelines), and its bill “consolidating the republican principles” currently studied by the Council of State. It will be presented on December 9 in the Council of Ministers, anniversary of the law of 1905. Quite a symbol. In the meantime, the words “separatism” and “secularism” have all the same disappeared from the title. The childbirth was difficult for Emmanuel Macron and his majority …

VIDEO. “Islamist separatism”: school, imams, associations … what to remember from Macron’s announcements

Few know it, but the genesis of this text dates back to the very beginning of the five-year term. In December 2017, the president asked the Ministry of the Interior to work in the territories from which jihadist fighters left. Three months later, an action plan was even put in place in fifteen test districts. “But the instructions at the start were clear: to do this quietly. Do not communicate voluntarily to see if it would work ”, admits today an adviser of the Palace.

Especially since in parallel, Macron must manage the contradictions of his majority. “He was very willing to go quickly and far on the subject, but he had to deal with this silent majority of the very social democratic marching Republic, very reluctant to the idea of ​​legislating around radical Islam”, confides a formerly of Matignon, with the memory that Emmanuel Macron “was particularly torn between his special advisor Philippe Grangeon ( Editor’s note, from the left and who left the Elysee Palace in early September ), and the prefects of the Elysee who were on the contrary very willing to be strong on actions ”.

In October 2018, when Christophe Castaner was appointed to Beauvau after the resignation of Gérard Collomb, his roadmap was clear: prepare a text. But the minister sets this prerequisite: touching the law of 1905 as little as possible, if not to strengthen it. “When we touch the sacred, and there the sacred Republican, we must act with reason and the necessary distance,” he warns. In addition to the creation of the CLIR (departmental unit for the fight against Islamism and community withdrawal), he and his Secretary of State Laurent Nunez then worked on neutrality measures in public services, the question of the funding of religions by powers foreigners, the possibility of dissolving structures or closing places of worship simply by making hateful or discriminatory remarks. The Minister of Communities Sébastien Lecornu pleads for his part to allow the prefects to suspend measures or to replace elected officials when the principles of secularism are threatened. For example within the framework of schedules arranged in the swimming pools.

The plan is on track, but the president is still groping about the general landing of the text. When he surprises on other occasions. As during this meeting with ministers organized on September 17th. Jean-Michel Blanquer evokes the galloping school dropout of students and “proposes to identify them by crossing the social assistance files to identify families and better target controls”. Macron ticks: “We must be more ambitious. Look rather at what would be the means to outright ban home schooling ”. “Blanquer was sawn off. He had not dared to go so far, convinced that he would never be followed, ”says a participant.

VIDEO. “Islamist separatism”: home schooling will be “strictly limited”, announces Macron

In a meeting with his chiefs of staff, the boss also annoys those who accuse him of not having a firm hand on radical Islam. “The danger is the amalgamation with the Muslim religion. This is why he procrastinated for a long time around the word communitarianism, ”confided a minister. Even if among the French the word “separatism” remains little understood. Around him, some alert him to polls that reflect this lexical misunderstanding. But he braces himself. “This is the word that best defines the goal I want to achieve, that is to say to attack those who want to separate from the Republic,” he supports in private. On September 4, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic celebrated in the Pantheon, the Head of State therefore still speaks of “a separatist adventure” and announces that a bill “will be tabled this fall. “. But he will end a few days later by abandoning the use of this expression in public.

In the meantime, a new duo has arrived at the Ministry of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin and Marlène Schiappa. At Justice, Eric Dupond-Moretti succeeded Nicole Belloubet. “It clearly gave a boost during the summer. Darmanin had obviously thought a lot about the subject before arriving in Beauvau, particularly on questions of worship, ”said an intimate of the president. So when the latter comes to Mureaux to present the contours of the future bill, the text is apparently “95% finalized”.

A code of ethics for future imams

But ten days later, the assassination of Samuel Paty catches up with the schedule provided by the Elysee Palace. It follows a terrorist attack in front of the former premises of Charlie Hebdo and precedes that of the Basilica of Nice by a few days. Fortunately, the Mureaux speech has passed. Otherwise, Macron would have been accused of angelism and naivety, ”raises a member of the government.

For the umpteenth time, the text is again taken up and discussed. Defense councils dedicated to this issue follow one another, in parallel with those devoted to health crisis management. Macron and his Prime Minister, Jean Castex, then stamp the final arbitrations. The crime of repressing online hatred is notably added in this “PJL” of forty-seven pages for fifty-seven articles. Again Wednesday evening, Emmanuel Macron got involved by receiving at the Elysee Palace, alongside Gérald Darmanin, the leaders of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM), the body responsible for representing Muslims in France to state authorities.

During this interview, the CFCM, on which the Head of State put pressure so that they further supervise the training of imams, against a backdrop of renewed Islamist threat, presented the governance project of a National Council of Imams (CNI) responsible for assessing the knowledge of future imams, labeling them and even issuing an official imam card. The latter will have to submit to a code of ethics drawn up by the CNI, but also to “a charter of respect for republican values”.

A text which must be finalized in the next fifteen days. It will be written by the CFCM… in conjunction with the Ministry of the Interior. “Two principles will be inscribed in black and white: the rejection of any political Islam and any foreign interference,” explains one at the Elysee. All the components of the CFCM will have to soften this text, “so as to remove the ambiguities”, continues the Elysee. The president took advantage of this meeting to recall the “great balances” of the future bill. “The most important text of this end of the five-year term”, we swear around the Head of State. Suffice to say, that once again, Emmanuel Macron is playing big.

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