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French bill makes intimidation on religious grounds a crime | France

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The draft law also makes it an offence to share personal information of a person that could lead to them being harmed.

A new French bill drafted in the aftermath of a gruesome beheading of a teacher last month makes it a crime to intimidate public servants on religious grounds.

The legislative piece, which was seen by the AFP news agency on Wednesday and will be presented before the cabinet on December 9, also makes it an offence to share the personal information of a person in a way that allows them to be identified or located by people who want to harm them.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has clamped down on what it calls “radical Islam” following the murder of Samuel Paty, who was the target of a vicious online smear campaign for showing his students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on free speech. Many Muslims believe any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.

The teacher’s murder sent shockwaves through France, which has been hit by several attacks since 2015, most of them carried out by French citizens.

Paty’s name was shared online by the father of one of his students, who labelled the teacher a “thug” in a video calling for his dismissal over the cartoons.

The father also exchanged messages with Paty’s killer, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee who travelled more than 80km (50 miles) from his home in Normandy to attack the teacher in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.

Macron has promised France would “not stop drawing caricatures”, drawing severe criticism from leaders across the Muslim world and protests in a number of countries. Pakistan’s government summoned the French ambassador to register a protest against the French president’s comments.

Just weeks before Paty’s death, Macron had set out plans to tackle what he called the “Islamist separatism” in poor French neighbourhoods that aimed to create a “counter-society” where Islamic law prevailed.

‘Hands off my teacher’

The bill drafted by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti provides for each child to be given an ID number that would be used to ensure they are attending school.

“We must save our children from the clutches of the Islamists,” Darmanin told Le Figaro newspaper on Wednesday.

The draft law also cracks down on online hate speech of the kind suffered by Paty by allowing for suspects to be summarily tried.

“This law is, ‘hands off my teacher, hands off the values of the republic’,” Dupond-Moretti told RTL radio.

In the wake of several assaults, France has also begun to close mosques and is cracking down on the organisations it suspects are spreading hate. However, there are fears of collective punishment and rising Islamophobia.

The new bill stipulates that any association that seeks public funding must agree to “respect the principles and values of the republic” and return the money if found to have flouted the rules.



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Cyclone Eloise affected 250,000 people in Mozambique, says UN | Weather News

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Eloise brought winds of up to 150km/h followed by torrential rain over port city of Beira and adjacent Buzi district.

A tropical cyclone that struck central Mozambique last week has affected 250,000 people, a sharp increase over initial estimates, according to a UN official.

Myrta Kaulard, the UN’s resident coordinator in Mozambique, added on Tuesday that 18,000 people were internally displaced after Cyclone Eloise made landfall in the early hours of Saturday.

“Yesterday, we were mentioning 170,000 people affected. Today, the official figures have climbed to 250,000,” Kaulard said in a video call with reporters at the UN, adding that 76 health centres and hundreds of classrooms were damaged.

“We also see widespread floods that are still there and a lot of people trying still to get out of the flooded areas,” she said.

Eloise brought winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour (90 miles per hour) followed by torrential rain over the port city of Beira, the capital of Mozambique’s Sofala province, and the adjacent Buzi district.

It weakened into a tropical storm as it moved inland to Zimbabwe, South Africa, eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland and Botswana.

The death toll across the region rose to 14 on Tuesday after South Africa reported one more death.

In Mozambique, the cyclone hit an area already devastated by two successive super-storms in March and April 2019.

The first, Cyclone Idai, left more than 1,000 dead and caused damage estimated at about $2bn.

People queue for food at the accommodation centre in Tica after their villages were flooded due to the passage of Cyclone Eloise [Andre Catueira/EPA]

An international aid group warned on Tuesday that crowded centres for storm survivors created ideal conditions for the coronavirus to spread.

In the port city of Beira alone, 8,700 people are living in 16 temporary shelters after their homes were destroyed by the cyclone.

“Each tent I saw had at least 10 people packed into it and families are lacking access to safe water and essential items like soap and face masks,” said Marcia Penicela, project manager at ActionAid Mozambique following a visit to sites.

Espinola Caribe, head of the World Food Programme’s Beira sub-office, also said COVID-19 was a concern and people had to be moved out of danger.

“This was not a planned evacuation … this was running for your life,” he said.

Widespread flooding in the Buzi area of Mozambique after the landfall of Cyclone Eloise [Bruno Pedro/UNICEF/AFP]



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