France Vows Crackdown on Religious Extremists

After Toulouse Rampage, New Focus on Radicals of All Faiths

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By Reuters

Published December 12, 2012.
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France will deport foreign-born imams and disband radical faith-based groups, including hardline traditionalist Catholics, if a new surveillance policy signals they suffer a “religious pathology” and could become violent.

A French Islamist shooting spree last March that killed three soldiers and four Jews showed how quickly religiously radicalised people could turn to force, Interior Minister Manuel Valls told a conference on the official policy of secularism.

His warning came two days after President Francois Hollande announced the creation of an agency to track how the separation of church and state is upheld in this traditionally Catholic country with Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish minorities.

Valls and two other cabinet ministers told the conference on Tuesday evening the Socialist-led government would stress the secularist policy called “laicite” that they said was weakened under the previous conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“The aim is not to combat opinions by force, but to detect and understand when an opinion turns into a potentially violent and criminal excess,” he said.

“The objective is to identify when it’s suitable to intervene to treat what has become a religious pathology,” said Valls, whose ministry oversees relations with religions.

France’s official secularism sidelines faith in the public sphere, but a trend towards a more visible religious identity among some Muslims, Jews and Catholics has made defending it a cause for the traditionally secularist left-wing parties.

FOCUS ON ALL FAITHS

Valls stressed the focus would be not only on radical Salafi Muslims recruiting among disaffected youths, but also on groups such as Civitas, a far-right lay Catholic movement that protests aggressively against what it calls insults to Christianity.


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