President Macron’s fight to win over conservatives in France – BBC Newsnight

there's a new target on student placards these days frederick vidal france's higher education minister her priority in the midst of a global pandemic root out islamist sympathies from french universities with a government probe into academic research we have a very strong extreme right so you cannot play with fire by saying you want to get get rid of islamism in universities it has consequences the row over university research is part of a wider government offensive against islamist ideology in france at its heart a new law designed to stop the separation of some muslim communities from mainstream french society what we have to attack is islamist separation a political religious project which emerges out of rifts with the values of the republic and often leads to a counter society but mr macron is struggling to bridge rifts even within his own political party and fear of islamist extremism is home turf to his far-right rival marine le pen public opinion is telling macron you can't look away so he pretends he talks tough but in reality this law is laughable and doesn't in any way protect the french the new law which has already passed the lower house of parliament would put tighter controls on religious funding education and cultural associations there are also tougher penalties for threatening public servants or endangering others by spreading personal information [Applause] the question of who's tougher on islamist extremism provoked a tussle on live television last month when macron's interior minister accused le pen of being too soft and advised her to take some vitamins you're going further than i am then le pen asks him well yes the minister says i'm harder than you but it's not just those who preach violence who are under the microscope macron is keen to tackle the roots of islamist extremism in schools mosques and associations and that's left some muslims feeling unfairly targeted anan lucille school mhs was closed late last year in what the paris authorities called the fight against separatism but the legal grounds for the closure were administrative with no mention of any islamist activity anan says her school taught a strictly secular curriculum and is appealing the decision we asked the paris prefecture for comment but no one was able to respond we think it's a discrimination and just because we have a girl who had who were headscarf that they put us in the case of extremism so they shut down our school and that's the problem because they don't attack only the extremist people they attack all the muslim people religious symbols like headscarves are banned in all french state schools mhs was private and the only secular school in paris to allow them for 15 year old rehan it means she's now back at an islamic school despite wanting a secular education for us mhs was the school who you can wear hijab without the islamic course you don't learn quran you don't have a religious course and it's why you always choose mhs when i chose this to go back to the islamic school like i said i didn't feel very good about it it was either remove my scarf or go back to my islamic school mr macron wants to ensure that religious teaching is in line with french national values he's demanded more control over the funding and training of france's imams and introduced a charter of republican values for them to sign the head of the paris mosque was one of the first to sign it we need to establish a bond of trust between the republic and the muslim community i know some people don't like it because we're supposed to be citizens already but i think this needs to be done and we're the ones who need to make the effort to be considered as citizens i don't see this as reductive or humiliating at all today i'm stating facts there's a link between islam and terrorism no one should kill in the name of islam and on that there's work to be done the islamist beheading of school teacher samuel patty in a suburban street last year turned up the pressure on president macron a recent poll suggested that almost half of french voters think marine le pen would do better on security and that a similar number thinks she's likely to win the presidential race next year but there are others questioning whether the government is going too far when samuel patty was beheaded i was there only a few meters away from the body do we fully realize what happened a teacher was beheaded with a knife at five in the afternoon in the middle of the street because he taught a class on freedom of speech it's not just another terror attack it's a turning point i don't think we're going too far i think there's a huge fight to be had against terrorism and radical islamism for marine le pen the challenge is to appear softer not harder more than any other party in france her hassam lemon nationale is now seen as the main opposition to macron tighter controls on religious organizations have angered conservative christians as well as muslims marine le pen often labeled islamophobic says she's the ally of the faithful in france there is religion on one hand an ideology on the other the government has made an error in thinking that islamism derives from the muslim religion and that all religions are guilty in a way the law wants to restrain islamism by putting at risk the freedom of religion i ask about her policy of banning the muslim headscarf from french streets would that also apply to the jewish keeper as i have said to my jewish compatriots we are asking for sacrifice to renounce the wearing of the kippah in order to be able to ban the headscarf which i see as part of islamist combat it's still over a year until the next presidential race but france is preparing for a rematch between macron and le pen one poll has put them just four points apart the gamble for france's centrist president is whether winning votes on the right will make up for losing them on the left the electorate of marine le pen is extremely mobilized they are going to support marine le pen and so if the electorate of macron with a vegetation the left would abstain then you can get a very very narrow result emmanuel macron rose to power four years ago promising to bridge france's political divide but the old left and right of politics has enduring power for many voters and the man who wanted to unite them both may find himself faced with choosing sides

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