France Considers Extending State of Emergency Laws, Which Historically Suppress Muslims

France Considers Extending State of Emergency Laws, Which Historically Suppress Muslims

Following the gruesome terrorist attacks in Paris, President François Hollande immediately declared a state of emergency, tightened France's borders and ordered 1,500 French troops to descend on Paris — temporary measures for extreme times.

But foreign correspondents and the French press report that Hollande will ask for his country's state of emergency, which he declared on Friday, to be extended for three months. The bill will be presented by the cabinet on Wednesday, Le Figaro reports, and Parliament will have to decide whether to extend the state of emergency — as it does with any state of emergency lasting over 12 days, under French law.

President Hollande will also ask for the law to be amended or altered, likely because the law as it stands gives the state incredibly broad powers to suppress the public.

The state of emergency also allows the government to set up curfews, and in the past it has been used to curfew just certain kinds of people. Notably, those people have been Muslims.

Sudden and extreme power: In many countries, laws governing a state of emergency are used in cases of natural disasters, declarations of war or civil unrest — in that regard, France's state of emergency seems appropriate. But France's laws about what the government can do in that state are specific and severe.

A state of emergency allows police to make home searches without warrants and set up blockades. The government can set up "protection areas" in one space and drive people out of public in another. They can close public events, prevent theaters from opening and exercise control over the press off "all kinds," whether that's print, radio or otherwise.

The only thing more drastic would be to declare a state of "siege," which would hand over power to the military.

The state of emergency also allows the government to set up curfews, and in the past it has been used to curfew only certain kinds of people. Notably, those people have been Muslims.

A history of tension with Muslims: The law was drafted in 1955 to deal with Algerian separatists and has only been used on two notable occasions — both of which had some element of policing Muslims.

The first was in 1961, when the law was used to put a curfew on French Muslims. On Oct. 17, 1961, a group of Muslims broke that curfew in a peaceful protest. The police set upon the crowds with batons and guns, allegedly strangling the Algerians or even throwing them off bridges — the media at the time failed to adequately cover the events, but the death toll is often estimated at 200. The police chief who led the counter-assault would later be convicted as a Nazi sympathizer and war criminal.

The second time was in 2005, when riots broke out in immigrant-heavy communities as racial tensions in France over Arabic and North African immigrants burst at the seams. The state of emergency lasted until February 2006; thousands of cars burned and dozens were arrested weekly.

Both times, the state of emergency punctuated nervousness around France's internal struggle with successfully integrating its Muslim population, in a country where there is not just a significant influx of immigrants but a history of anger and divisiveness toward Muslims.