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Emergency legislation enacted after last month’s Paris attacks has led to a fierce crackdown on France’s Islamic population. Warrantless searches and raids have become commonplace, a move which many say violates the civil liberties of Muslims.
Speaking to RT’s Daniel Bushell, the manager of the Pepper Grill restaurant on the outskirts of Paris recalled a police raid at his restaurant on Saturday night. “They blocked the roads with trucks, and up to 40 armed men stormed our restaurant... Saturday night’s the busiest time. Children were eating. The cops had shotguns, black masks, and shields, making the women tremble with fear. Several officers rushed downstairs, then suddenly... they began breaking the doors with battering rams. The door wasn’t even locked”, the restaurant manager said. After police failed to find any weapons during the search, they raided so-called “undeclared prayer rooms” above the restaurant. However, legal experts told RT that it is unlikely that such rooms are illegal, even under the country’s new emergency legislation.
The emergency laws, implemented after last month’s terror attacks which killed 130 people and left 352 others injured, have led to thousands of warrantless searches and raids. But it’s not just private property that is being targeted –Muslims are also being singled out on the street. “Police tried to pull the hood off the head of an Arab friend eating with my little brother. Then they detained him, saying it’s a state of emergency so they have the right”, a local told RT on condition of anonymity, fearing police reprisals. He added that the community is “sick of being targeted”. Such targeting is reportedly worse for young people, many of whom said they pull hoods over their faces as soon as they see a police car, so officers can’t see the color of their skin.
That fear is a direct result of the war being waged against the Muslim community, according to Yasser Louati of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France. He recalled a situation where a mother was “touched in her private parts by police”, and another mother who “lost her baby after a raid”.
However, one French mayor is not backing down, believing that extra security is necessary because France is “living amid an Islamic threat”. “I’ve already doubled the number of city policemen, but I went even further. I asked all the former policemen, firefighters and servicemen to come and help to protect our citizens. If my initiative goes against the law, we should change the law. We are living amid an Islamic threat and we should be aware of the consequences. Our country, as well as other European countries, is at war –both outside our borders, in Syria for instance, and inside our borders, because our enemies live in our own country”, Robert Menard, mayor of the French town of Beziers, told RT.
In addition to warrantless searches and raids, France’s state of emergency laws allow the government to put people under house arrest, seal the country’s borders and ban demonstrations. The laws were created during the Algerian war in 1955. France is currently aiming to change its constitution to allow a state of emergency to last for six months, according to government sources. The proposal, which has been slammed by many who say the government is abusing its powers, will be put to ministers on December 23, according to AFP.