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France's new terrorism law has some worried about unfair profiling, but others say it's necessary


It comes as no surprise that French leaders want to do something to curb the country's terror problem, but a controversial new law has raised concerns that France may be sacrificing too many rights for security.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently signed into law a new bill which essentially formalizes many of the policies instituted by the country's nearly two-year long state of emergency. France first declared a state of emergency in November 2015 in response to the Paris terror attacks which left 130 dead. Since then, armed soldiers, home raids and the shutting down of religious centers have become more common in France, as its leaders continue to try to stop the ongoing violence. The new law formalizes some of these measures in French law, which supporters say will help security officials combat the problem going forward.

"There's been 60 plots since the beginning of January 2014," Robin Simcox, a Thatcher Fellow at the Heritage Foundation who specializes in European terrorism, told me in an interview. "That's higher than any other European country. Of course the response to that is not going to be status quo. They are going to have to take some measures that they ideally wouldn't like to take."

The bill was hotly debated in French parliament. A major point of contention is the lack of judicial oversight, according to Trevor Thrall, a fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in defense and foreign policy.

"The federal government will now be able to do this without judges pretty much anywhere they want," Thrall told me in an interview. "They are able to close mosques ... without any crimes having been committed on suspicion that they might be inciting terrorism. They are going to be able to put people under house arrest, under electronic surveillance, again, without a judge being involved."

Controversial as it may be, the decision to pass the legislation was not taken lightly. France has been disproportionately targeted by terrorist attacks since the rise of the Islamic State three years ago, and the French people appear to be aware of the problem. Approximately 57 percent supported the law, according to Le Figaro, though 62 percent of respondents did acknowledge that it will restrict rights.

But the effectiveness of the state of emergency is also up for debate. The French government has claimed to have stopped 32 terror attacks since the state of emergency began, according to The Local, however, it is unclear if the emergency measures were responsible for stopping them. That said, the searches have allowed police to take 625 illegal weapons off the streets, including assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades.

Experts and analysts have proposed a myriad of reasons as to why France in particular is so often targeted by Islamist terrorists. Some blame an aggressive foreign policy, others claim the government did not previously take the spread of the ideology seriously enough. But both Simcox and Thrall noted integration has been a problem. France has had a tense history with immigrant populations, specifically Muslims from North Africa, going back to the Algerian war in the mid-20th century.

"Ultimately, I think that this is a question that is being asked all over Europe: how do we integrate citizens? How do we prevent the radicalization on the scale its currently happening?" said Simcox. "I have to be honest, I don't think anybody has a great answer for that at the moment."

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