French anti-Islamophobia alliance calls for nationwide protests
In February, lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill that would strengthen oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs to safeguard France from radical Islamists and ensure respect for French values - one of President Emmanuel Macron's landmark projects.
"It's an extremely strong secular offensive," Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told RTL radio ahead of the vote. "It's a tough text... but necessary for the republic."
A group of Muslim organisations, who named themselves the Front Against Islamophobia, deplored "the separatist and racist law" and vowed to hold demonstrations "everywhere in France" on March 21.
"With disproportionate cynicism, the government is instrumentalising terrorism, its victims and our emotions to make every Muslim an enemy from within," the alliance said in a February statement in preparation for the upcoming march.
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"We refuse to allow Islam and Muslims to be thrown into the pasture of debates even as health, social, economic and ecological crises and emergencies are increasing," the group said.
"We refuse that this bill, which should be discussed until the next presidential election, serves as a springboard for the most daring Islamophobes, always ready to outbid for the seizure of power," it added.
"We refuse to allow Islam and Muslims to be thrown into the pasture of debates even as health, social, economic and ecological crises and emergencies are increasing."
The statement went on to urge participation in the march, saying: "Do not be afraid! It is about defending our rights, our freedoms, our dignity."
Among the more than 70 separate articles, the law expands the ability of the state to close places of worship and religious schools, as well as to ban extremist preachers.
Amid concerns about the funding of mosques by Turkey, Qatar or Saudi Arabia, it requires religious groups to declare large foreign donations and have their accounts certified.
Macron and Darmanin in particular have been accused of pandering to the far-right by exaggerating the danger of Islamist groups in the often-marginalised immigrant communities found in French suburbs.
The government counters that the threat is real, pointing to repeated terror attacks and what Macron called the development of a "counter-society" that rejects secularism, equality and other French values and laws.