FaithWorld

France steps up struggle against religious radicals, including hardline Catholics

December 12, 2012

(France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls delivers a speech during a visit to Ajaccio on the French Mediterranean Island of Corsica, November 25, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer )

France will deport foreign-born imams and disband radical faith-based groups, including hardline traditionalist Catholics, if a new surveillance policy signals they suffer a “religious pathology” and could become violent.

A French Islamist shooting spree last March that killed three soldiers and four Jews showed how quickly religiously radicalized people could turn to force, Interior Minister Manuel Valls told a conference on the official policy of secularism.

His warning came two days after President Francois Hollande announced the creation of an agency to track how the separation of church and state is upheld in this traditionally Catholic country with Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish minorities.

Valls and two other cabinet ministers told the conference on Tuesday evening the Socialist-led government would stress the secularist policy called “laicite” that they said was weakened under the previous conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“The aim is not to combat opinions by force, but to detect and understand when an opinion turns into a potentially violent and criminal excess,” he said.

“The objective is to identify when it’s suitable to intervene to treat what has become a religious pathology,” said Valls, whose ministry oversees relations with religions.

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