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Amnesty International said that France is “not a champion of freedom as it claims.” French Muslims, for example, the French police conducted investigations with four 10-year-olds for several hours on suspicion of “justifying terrorism” because they doubted the teacher’s choice to display these offensive images.
The organization says that in 2019 a French court convicted two men of “contempt” after they burned an effigy representing French President Macron during a peaceful demonstration, and that the French Parliament is currently discussing a new law criminalizing the circulation of images of law enforcement officials through social media. Accordingly, it is difficult to reconcile this approach with the fierce defense of the French authorities for the right to depict the Prophet Muhammad in caricatures. As opposing cartoons does not make one separatist or fanatical. .
She added that the right to express opinion is being vigorously defended in France under the guise of “the universality of the principles of the republic.” In the name of secularism, Muslims in France cannot wear religious symbols or religious dress in schools or in public sector jobs.
Amnesty International says that France’s record on freedom of expression in other areas is equally bleak. Every year, thousands of people are convicted of “contempt of public officials”, a vaguely defined criminal offense that law enforcement and judicial authorities have applied in massive numbers to silence peaceful dissent. In June of this year, the European Court of Human Rights said that the conviction of 11 activists in France for carrying out a campaign to boycott Israeli products violated their right to freedom of expression.
She says that there is a disturbing sign that history is repeating itself, and the French government is now working to dissolve associations and close mosques, based on the vague concept of “extremism” and throughout the state of emergency, the term “extremism” was often used as a metaphor for “a religious Muslim.” The French Minister of Interior expressed his intention to dissolve the “Collective Against Islamophobia in France” (CCIF), an organization that combats unfair discrimination against Muslims, and described the gathering as “an enemy of the republic” and a “back room for terrorism.” The minister did not provide any evidence to support his allegations.
It indicated that, a few days after the killing of the teacher, France expressed its intention to expel 231 foreigners suspected of “extremism” and threatening national security. The authorities began carrying out 16 deportations to countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Russia and Tunisia, where Amnesty International has documented the use of torture, especially for people who are labeled as a threat to national security. The French Ministry of Education engaged in a cultural war against multiculturalism and critical ethnic approaches. She argued that attempts to counter entrenched racism are based on ideas “imported from the United States”, and that they constitute fertile ground for “separatism and extremism.” But it is not extremist to note that Muslims and other minorities are victims of racism in France, and saying this is a right guaranteed by freedom of expression.
Amnesty International concludes by saying that the French government’s discourse on freedom of expression is not sufficient to conceal its shameful hypocrisy, as freedom of expression has no meaning unless it applies to everyone. The government’s campaign to protect freedom of expression should not be used to cover up actions that put people at risk of human rights violations, including torture.
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