Dec 4, 2020 - World

France and Austria target "Islamist separatism" after terror attacks

Macron (L) with Kurz. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty

In the wake of terror attacks by Islamic extremists, French President Emmanuel Macron has launched a campaign against "Islamist separatism," while Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz plans to outlaw "political Islam."

Why it matters: Both leaders argue that they're targeting not Islam, but Islamic extremism. Both are being accused of fueling Islamophobia.

Driving the news: Gérald Darmanin, Macron's conservative interior minister, ordered inspections of 78 mosques on Thursday and said those found to promote extremism would be shut down.

  • Darmanin said these were isolated cases and that France was "far from a situation of widespread radicalization."
  • But he echoed the warnings about "separatism," or the rejection of French laws and society. Macron has labeled separatism a threat to France's secular values and national unity.
  • Macron's fiery rhetoric after the beheading of Samuel Paty — a teacher targeted for showing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in class — led to protests from Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan and Turkey, and accusations at home that he was enabling discrimination or playing politics to fend off the far-right.

What to watch: Kurz's proposal could be far more sweeping, though it remains fairly vague.

  • Per the FT, Kurz plans to bring legislation to parliament this month that would ban membership in "Islamist" organizations, give police increased powers to make preventative arrests and close down "radical" mosques, and allow the government to "strip radicalized individuals of their citizenship."
  • “We will create a criminal offense called ‘political Islam’ in order to be able to take action against those who are not terrorists themselves but who create the breeding ground for such,” Kurz said last month.
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