France's Macron issues 'Republican values' ultimatum to Muslim leaders

Protesters have condemned President Macron over his comments about Islam Protesters have condemned President Macron over his comments about Islam

French President Emmanuel Macron has asked Muslim leaders to accept a "charter of Republican values" as part of a broad clampdown on radical Islam.

On Wednesday he gave the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) a 15-day ultimatum to accept the charter.

It will state that Islam is a religion and not a political movement, while also prohibiting "foreign interference" in Muslim groups.

It follows three suspected Islamist attacks in little more than a month.

Mr Macron has strongly defended French secularism in the wake of the attacks, which included the beheading of a teacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during a class discussion last month.

Late on Wednesday, the president and his interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, met eight CFCM leaders at the Élysée palace.

"Two principles will be inscribed in black and white [in the charter]: the rejection of political Islam and any foreign interference," one source told the Le Parisien newspaper after the meeting.

The CFCM representatives also agreed to create a National Council of Imams, The body would reportedly issue imams with official accreditation which could be withdrawn if an ethical code is breached.

President Macron has also announced new measures to tackle what he called "Islamist separatism" in France.

The measures include a wide-ranging bill that seeks to prevent radicalisation. It was unveiled on Wednesday, and includes measures such as restrictions on home-schooling and harsher punishments for those who intimidate public officials on religious grounds.

Each child would be given an identification number under the law that would be used to ensure they are attending school. Parents who break the law could face up to six months in jail as well as large fines.

The bill, which was first seen by the AFP news agency, also makes it an offence to share the personal information of a person in a way that allows them to be located by people who want to harm them.

Samuel Paty, the teacher who was killed outside his school last month, was targeted by an online hate campaign before his death on 16 October.

"We must save our children from the clutches of the Islamists," Mr Darmanin told the Le Figaro newspaper on Wednesday. The draft law will be discussed by the French cabinet on 9 December.

Earlier this year, President Macron described Islam as a religion "in crisis" and defended the right of magazines to publish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Such depictions are widely regarded as taboo in Islam and are considered highly offensive by many Muslims.

Following these comments, the French leader became a figure of hate in several Muslim-majority countries. Protesters have also called for a boycott of French products.

In France, state secularism (laïcité) is central to the country's national identity. Freedom of expression in schools and other public spaces is part of that, and curbing it to protect the feelings of a particular religion is seen as undermining national unity.

France has western Europe's largest Muslim population.