Upcoming legislation crafted to "protect" the Republic and French values promises to be deeply divisive, with French Muslims fearing it will unfairly single them out. Some also see political calculus behind the effort.
Macron's discourse was a curtain-raiser of sorts for an upcoming draft bill against "separatist" threats, which officials say also include groups like white supremacists. But with many observers considering it clearly aimed at Islamist extremism, the legislation has already sparked sharp controversy well before its rollout later this year.
While some welcome the government's so-called anti-separatisms drive as long overdue, leaders of France's roughly six-million-strong Muslim community —western Europe's largest — fear it may unfairly single them out.
"We're near the end of Macron's first term," said Jawad Bachare, director of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, which has sometimes been accused of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood. "And with each election there are the same questions about Muslims, and the financing of Muslim places of worship."
He announced the draft legislation would be introduced in December and described it as a was to preserve France's secular state by keeping religion — including displays of religiosity — outside of education and the public sector. "Secularism is the cement of a united France," Macron said.
Among other areas, the bill is expected to further crack down on foreign financing of mosques and private religious schools, bar foreign imams, increase surveillance of associations and individuals suspected of "separatism" — including in the public sector and in sports — and ban efforts threatening gender equality, including pre-marriage "virginity certificates" for Muslim women.
"There is no incompatibility between being Muslim and being a (French) citizen," Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, the grandson of a Muslim immigrant, told French radio recently.