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Protesters urge French government to revoke anti-Muslim bill

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A woman holds a placard reading "enough of Islamophobia" as protesters demonstrate against a bill originally dubbed as "anti-separatism", in Paris, France, on February 14, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

People have taken to the streets of the French capital, Paris, to protest against a controversial bill that rights advocates consider discriminatory against Muslims.

Muslims and non-Muslims gathered in the Trocadero Square in Paris on Sunday to demand that the draft law, originally dubbed anti-separatism bill, be scrapped over concerns that it would target religious freedom and turn all Muslims into potential suspects.

The bill, now called a “draft law to strengthen republican values,” was introduced by French President Emmanuel Macron last year supposedly to stamp out what he calls “Islamist separatism” following the murder of a school teacher by a Muslim teenager of Chechen origin.

Samuel Paty was murdered after he showed his students insulting caricatures of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) earlier published by the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The assailant was killed by French police near the scene of the attack.

The protesters said the government was targeting a whole community because of a single act of crime.

“It’s not worth attacking a whole community because one person did a horrible act,” said Zeyneb Bouabidi, a woman from the Paris suburb of Conflans-Saint-Honorine, where the teacher was killed in October.

Referring to occasional discrimination she has experienced at university and in her jobs due to her Arab-sounding name, Bouabidi said she feared measures like the draft law could only aggravate the situation.

“They make comments like ‘go back to your country.’ But I am in my country! I was born in France,” she said.

The Sunday rally was collectively organized by a number of Islamic, anti-racism, left-wing, pro-Palestinian and other activist groups.

Critics say the bill targets the Muslim community and imposes restrictions on almost every aspect of their lives.

The bill also tightens rules on the funding of mosques, associations and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims.

Macron previously sparked controversy after making insulting remarks against Islam and defending the publication of sacrilegious cartoons of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in the name of “freedom of speech.”  

His remarks sparked protests across the world and prompted calls for the boycott of French goods.     

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