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France approves anti-separatism bill to battle Islamist extremism

The French National Assembly has approved a new ‘anti-separatism’ bill in order to bolster the country’s secular system, despite critics arguing that it breaches religious freedom.

The anti-separatist bill, dubbed ‘anti-muslim’ by far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, was approved by 49 votes to 19 on 23 July. France’s main opposition parties, including the Socialists and the centre-right Les Républicains, along with the French Communist Party, voted against the bill for different reasons.

Only three parties in the National Assembly – the ruling La République en marche (LREM) party and its two allies – voted for the law. The far-right National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, abstained from the vote.

The bill contains a slew of measures on the neutrality of the civil service, the fight against online hatred, and the protection of civil servants such as teachers. The legislation follows three attacks in France late last year by extremists, including the beheading in October of teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a civics class.

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