Each child in France will be given an ID number to ensure they are attending school and not in “the clutches of Islamists” under a proposed French law on preventing radicalisation in the wake of a string of attacks.
In September, President Emmanuel Macron had already set out plans to tackle what he called the “Islamist separatism” in poor French neighbourhoods, citing claims of children from ultraconservative Muslim families being taken out of school, and sporting and cultural associations being used to indoctrinate youth.
“We must save our children from the clutches of the Islamists,” interior minister Gérald Darmanin told Le Figaro newspaper on Wednesday. The legislation would ban homeschooling from the age of three bar very limited cases.
The draft bill, which was completed after an Islamist beheaded teacher Samuel Paty outside Paris last month, would also make it a crime to intimidate public servants on religious grounds.
Another clause cracks down on online hate speech by enabling judges to hold fasttrack trials of terror suspects.
Mr Paty was the target of a vicious online smear campaign for showing his students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a class on free speech.
His name was shared online by the father of one of his students, who labelled the teacher a “thug” in a video calling for his dismissal over the cartoons.
The father also exchanged messages with Mr Paty’s killer, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee who travelled over 50 miles from his home in Normandy to attack the teacher and paid some students to point him out.
“This law is, ‘hands off my teacher, hands off the values of the republic’,” justice minister Eric Dupond-Moretti told RTL radio.
NGOs and charities suspected of being infiltrated by radical Islamists will have to return public funds if they are found to have failed to “respect the principles and values of the republic”.
The bill’s most controversial clause would make it a new criminal offence to publish footage that could identify a police officer “with the intent of causing physical or psychological harm”.
A conviction would carry a maximum penalty of up to one year in prison and a €45,000 (£40,000) fine.
Critics fear this could lead to potential violations of fundamental media freedoms and the clause prompted a demonstration outside French parliament on Tuesday night in which 33 people were arrested as police used water cannon and teargas to disperse protesters.
Detractors, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations and France’s human rights ombudsman, argue the measure could endanger journalists, especially during violent demonstrations. They question how courts will determine whether images are posted with “intent to harm”.
Footage posted online has often played a critical role in revealing instances of police violence.
On Wednesday, the government insisted it would not prevent journalists from recording police officers in action.
“There is an absolute right to film and broadcast law enforcement operations by security forces during a protest,” said government spokesman Gabriel Attal.
The draft bill also introduces jail terms and fines for doctors who provide controversial so-called “virginity certificates” for traditional religious marriages.
Those caught handing them out face a year in jail and fine of €15,000.
About 30 percent of French doctors say they have been asked for such certificates, according to reports.
MPs from President Macron’s ruling majority are expected to pass the bill next week before it goes to the Senate.