After delivering a speech addressing numerous social issues tied to France’s burgeoning protest movement, the Yellow Vests, Macron’s press conference took an odd turn when he laid into the French Muslim population.
“We are talking about people who, in the name of a religion, pursue a political project,” he said. “A political Islam that wants to secede from our Republic,” against which he asked the government to be “intractable.”
Macron also gave a ringing defense of French secularism, and called out “communitarianism.”
“We must not hide ourselves when we talk about secularism, we do not really talk about secularism, we talk about the communitarianism that has settled in certain districts of the Republic,” Macron said, referring to Muslim communities.
French citizens gave mixed reactions on social media to the president’s remarks, some posing their own questions in response.
Some suggested Macron sought to draw support from the right, capturing some of the constituency of National Rally (previously National Front) party leader Marine Le Pen.
The government has in recent months worked to strengthen the enforcement of a 1905 law mandating a separation of church and state, Macron said, threatening to shut down “more associations or cultural institutions when they do not respect the rules of the Republic.”
The move appears to make good on a statement Macron gave last year, saying he wanted to create an “Islam of France,” wherein the government would “set down markers on the entire way in which Islam is organized” in the country.