Last Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that a minority of France’s estimated 6 million Muslims could form a “counter-society,” and that Islam was facing a “crisis” all around the world, before unveiling his plan to tackle what he considered to be a “parallel society” in France.

It’s not a new argument in the country, which has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe. Macron has another, singular purpose: to brandish his tough-on-Islam credentials in a populist political environment at the expense of an already embattled French Muslim minority.

Ironically, Macron has failed to recognize that the cardinal principle of separation between church and state in France (laicité) and the state’s neutrality toward organized religion actually prohibit him from engaging in what is essentially a community’s own private religious discourse. But the situation is far more serious than that.

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This article was originally published in Foreign Policy.