The president of the NGO BarakaCity, Idriss Sihamedi, was arrested by armed officers in a raid broadcast online on Wednesday.
Sihamedi had criticised President Macron’s recent comments on supposed ‘Islamic separatism’.
French Muslims are in uproar after armed police targeted a critic of President Emmanuel Macron in a raid that was broadcast live online.
Idriss Sihamedi, the founder and president of the NGO BarakaCity, says he was beaten and forcibly restrained by officers who pressed his head against the floor during the raid at his home on Wednesday.
A member of the group, which conducts charitable projects within France and abroad, broadcast the scenes, showing broken surveillance equipment, furniture overturned, and documents strewn across the floor.
According to BarakaCity, police prevented Sihamedi’s wife from dressing their four-year-old child who had been sleeping covered only in his blanket. When she did anyway, she was insulted by officers who restrained her with handcuffs.
Armed police also forced the couple’s three other children to keep their hands up in the air, the NGO said.
Supporters described the raid as an act of ‘intimidation’ and a violation of free speech but while officials have given no explanation for the raid, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin accused Sihamedi of ‘condoning terrorism’ in a since deleted tweet.
Darmanin has not provided any evidence to support that assertion.
Up until the raid, Sihamedi had been a vociferous critic of Macron’s plans to clamp down on practice of Islam.
In a number of speeches and statements made over the past few months, the French president has claimed Islam is in ‘crisis’ across the world and has pledged to introduce measures to crackdown on what he describes as ‘Islamic separatism’.
While previous French leaders have implemented measures targeting Muslims, such as the ban on students wearing headscarves in school and the ban on face coverings, none in the modern era have directly criticised Islam as a religion.
Macron and Islam
Even before Macron’s declaration of the supposed ‘crisis’ within Islam, France has been cracking down on its Muslims.
Interior Minister Darmanin has revealed that French authorities have shut down 73 Muslim establishments, including mosques, schools, shops, and coffee houses since the start of 2020.
The government claims that these establishments either did not have the proper authorisation or that they encouraged ‘extremism’. French Muslims, however, counter that the French definition of extremism is so broad that just about any Muslim entity can fall under its scope.
Those responding to the raid on Sihamedi’s residence said that the country was witnessing the start of a ‘witch hunt’ targeting Muslims.
Hashtags sprang up on Twitter announcing their support for Sihamedi and BarakaCity with some activists calling for protests outside police stations on Thursday.
Macron’s push against the country’s Muslim community comes as polls put him neck-and-neck with Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally party formerly known as the National Front.
Le Pen has built her popularity around the promise of cracking down on the Muslim presence in France.
Given Macron’s failure to repair the French economy, the current drive against the Muslim community could be about establishing his credentials on what is likely to be the key issue of the 2022 election.
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