Tensions Over Islam’s Place in French Society Escalate After Teacher’s Death

PARIS—Since an Islamist radical beheaded a French schoolteacher this month, authorities have detained dozens of suspected extremists, moved to disband Muslim civic groups and shut down a mosque where thousands worship, escalating a long-simmering conflict over the place of Islam in French society.

Those measures are part of a campaign by the government of President Emmanuel Macron to counter what it calls “Islamic separatism,” which senior officials describe as the dominance of religious rules over state authority in some Muslim communities. Authorities say their moves reflect a new determination to ensure France’s Muslims comply with the country’s strict laws separating religion and state, known as laïcité.

Yet French Muslims see the measures as an attempt to stigmatize them and strip their identity. In remarks that resonated across the Muslim community, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said this week he was shocked that supermarkets had halal sections.

“What I don’t like are the aisles,” Mr. Darmanin said. “Why have a different aisle?”

Muslims in countries from Asia to Africa have called for boycotts of French goods. International terrorist groups have called for attacks targeting France.

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