French president visits main Paris mosque after bitter ‘halal’ debate

News Agencies – March 14, 2012

President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Paris’s main mosque, a week after a row over halal meat led France’s Muslims and Jews to complain they were being used as pawns in the presidential election. Sarkozy met the mosque’s rector and the French Muslim Council leader and said he told them “he did not want, in this electoral period, some of our compatriots to feel hurt by controversies that have no place here”.

Sarkozy also inaugurated at the mosque a memorial to Muslim soldiers who died fighting for France. The country has for years been debating how far it is willing to go to accommodate Islam, now France’s second religion, and Sarkozy and Le Pen have both made the matter a central issue in their campaigns.