Jacques Chirac emerges as spokesperson for Holocaust instruction in Muslim countries

Former French President Jacques Chirac has emerged as a spokesperson of sorts for Holocaust instruction in Muslim countries. Chirac’s popularity in parts of the Arab world and his history of making clear statements about France’s responsibility in the World War II destruction of Europe’s Jews accords him, according to this IHT feature, a unique place in talking about the relationship of racism and anti-Semitism to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Chirac said he had no intention “to place on Muslim countries a responsibility” for the Holocaust “that isn’t theirs” but stressed the importance of “making the Shoah known while removing it from the silence that people have built up around it in many countries.” “It’s been hidden,” Chirac said, “because referring to the Shoah in these countries has risked creating sympathy for the Jews and Israel.”

Chirac, Sarkozy And Séguin Agree On Appointing Immigrant Prefect

By B_atrice Gurrey PARIS – Nacer Meddah, the son of Algerian immigrants, was named Prefect of Aube, following public anger at Mr. Sarkozy’s incongruous televised promise of appointing “a Muslim prefect” and in the light of the politically turbulant pr_fecture of A_ssa Dermouche. The French statesmen lauded Mr. Meddah’s appoitnment as the result of a meritocratic process, devoid of ethnic or religious overtones, but a model for immigrants’ upward social mobility. {(continued below in French)} Le ministre de l’int_rieur, qui avait suscit_ la pol_mique et la col_re du pr_sident en assurant _ la t_l_vision, le 30 novembre 2003, qu’il allait nommer “un pr_fet musulman”, s’est f_licit_, en conseil des ministres, que le premier pr_sident de la Cour des comptes ait accept_, “dans l’int_r_t de M. Meddah”, de laisser partir son secr_taire g_n_ral adjoint, un collaborateur pr_cieux. M. Chirac a rench_ri sur les qualit_s de ce fonctionnaire, n_ en France de parents alg_riens, qui rejoint, _ 46 ans, le d_partement d’un fid_le chiraquien, Fran_ois Baroin. M. S_guin lui-m_me, apr_s s’_tre fait prier plusieurs mois, se r_jouit de la promotion de M. Meddah, “un homme remarquable et un tr_s grand fonctionnaire”. La querelle philosophique et s_mantique sur le “pr_fet musulman” serait donc _teinte. M. Sarkozy, qui s’_tait nagu_re vant_ d’avoir employ_ cette expression et d’_tre le seul _ braver les tabous, s’est bien gard_ d’y recourir _ nouveau. En janvier 2004, lors d’une conversation informelle _ l’occasion des voeux _ la presse, le chef de l’Etat avait s_chement mis les choses au point : “J’ai dit en conseil des ministres, et je l’ai dit au ministre de l’int_rieur, que je n’accepterais plus de mouvement pr_fectoral o_ il n’y aurait pas de Fran_ais issu de l’immigration.” Quant _ l’expression “pr_fet musulman”, “je ne l’ai jamais utilis_e”, avait-il pr_cis_. Car la religion musulmane n’a rien _ voir dans la nomination de M. Meddah, produit de la m_ritocratie _ la fran_aise. Ses parents ont quitt_ l’Alg_rie dans les ann_es 1950 pour le nord de la France, o_ le p_re est devenu ouvrier. A sa mort, la m_re a _lev_ seule ses trois enfants qui sont aujourd’hui pr_fet, proviseure de lyc_e et ing_nieure en informatique, gr_ce _ leurs _tudes. Cette nomination consensuelle est aussi destin_e _ faire oublier l’exp_rience malheureuse qui avait suivi la nomination d’A_ssa Dermouche, nomm_ pr_fet du Jura en janvier 2004, _ la suite de la querelle entre le ministre de l’int_rieur et le chef de l’Etat. Il avait _t_ victime de deux attentats qui ne l’avaient pas atteint physiquement, puis touch_ par de graves soucis de sant_. L’enqu_te n’a toujours pas abouti.

Chirac Pays Homage To Muslim War Veterans

President Jacques Chirac paid homage Sunday to the hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers from former colonies who fought for France in World War I, unveiling a memorial on the site of the battle of Verdun. “The Verdun army was the army of the people, and all the people took part,” Chirac said, inaugurating a white-walled Moorish-style monument. “It was France in all its diversity.” The commemoration has come at a time of turbulence in France’s relations with its ethnic minorities. A senior Muslim leader said he hoped the belated recognition of his community’s war dead would help ease the tensions. Chirac himself looked back almost with nostalgia at the way France rallied in 1916 to fight the Germans. “This ceremony reminds us how in that moment of history, at Verdun and for Verdun, the French nation knew how to unite,” he said after laying a wreath at the monument. Separate memorials already stand for the Christians and Jews who died in the mud and misery of the trenches, but up until Sunday the Muslims only had a small plaque dedicated to them. France mobilized close to 600,000 colonial subjects in World War I, including many from Muslim territories like Algeria and Tunisia, and 78,000 were killed. Total French dead numbered 1.2 million. Some of France’s former colonies have complained that France has been ungrateful to its colonial troops, arguing that without their efforts, Paris would have fallen to the Germans. Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Muslim Council, told reporters he hoped the new memorial would help close old wounds. He said he hoped it would provide “an impulse for the future for a closer integration of all of France’s Muslim communities,” adding that they are “completely French communities, thanks in no small part to the blood they have shed.” A wave of rioting in mainly poor, immigrant suburbs rocked France last autumn, laying bare the difficulties the country faces in integrating its multi- ethnic society. The government has responded with a mix of tough immigration laws and increased efforts to recognize minority groups. In May, France marked its first annual commemoration day for victims of the slave trade and last week Chirac opened a major new museum celebrating ethnic art from around the world. Verdun, where more than 300,000 troops died, lends itself to the task of reconciliation and was the setting for a memorable gesture of friendship between France and Germany, which fought three disastrous wars in less than a century. President Fran_ois Mitterrand of France and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany stood together in Verdun in 1984 to display the new ties between their two countries.

Chirac Slams Media “Provocation” in Printing Mohammad Cartoons

PARIS – French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday accused newspapers printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed of “provocation,” after yet another French publication put the contentious caricatures on its pages. “Anything that can hurt the convictions of another, particularly religious convictions, must be avoided. Freedom of expression must be exercised in a spirit of responsibility,” Chirac told his cabinet, according to a government spokesman.

Laïcité Still Hot Topic

1905: Le D_bat Sur La La_cit_ Toujours Ouvert Mais Avec D’autres Enjeux With the rise of Islam in France, the 1905 law of la_cit_ has become a topic for debate. Muslims, the second largest religious group in France, often have a difficult time raising the funds for building mosques. Because of this, moneys are sometimes received from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states where forms of Islam are prevalent which have become worries since September 11th. To deal with this issue, there have been several approaches, with Nicolas Sarkozy supporting revisions to the law, while Jacques Chirac and Dominic de Villepin supporting the creation of a foundation to support mosques, but no changes to the law. {(article continues below in French)} Cent ans apr_s, la la_cit_ consacr_e par la loi du 9 d_cembre 1905 continue de faire d_bat en France, mais le ton s’est polic_ et les enjeux se sont d_plac_s vers l’islam et les nouvelles demandes religieuses, y compris les sectes. Le d_bat s’est rallum_ lors de la pr_paration de la loi du 15 mars 2004 sur le port d’insignes religieux _ l’_cole. Il conna_t des sursauts r_guliers, par exemple sur la mise en berne des drapeaux pour la mort de Jean Paul II. Mais son intensit_ et son ampleur restent sans commune mesure avec le d_but du si_cle. Son cadre a chang_ avec l’insertion dans l’espace europ_en. Et cette fois, il tourne surtout autour de l’islam. L’islam, qui n’_tait pas concern_ par la loi de 1905, est devenu la deuxi_me religion en France derri_re le catholicisme, avec environ 5 millions de musulmans estim_s pour quelque 40 millions de catholiques et autant de pratiquants r_guliers, entre 10 et 15%. Par rapport aux catholiques, aux protestants (un peu plus d’un million) ou aux juifs (environ 600.000), les musulmans sont d_pourvus de patrimoine immobilier cultuel. Souvent peu fortun_s, ils ont du mal _ financer leurs mosqu_es. Les municipalit_s peuvent les aider (baux emphyt_otiques, garanties de pr_ts etc.) mais la loi interdit tout financement public. Le recours _ des fonds _trangers, notamment d’Arabie saoudite, patrie du wahabbisme rigoriste, est mal per_u depuis les attentats du 11 septembre 2001. Le ministre de l’Int_rieur, charg_ des Cultes, Nicolas Sarkozy s’est fait le champion d’une nouvelle r_vision de la loi –il y en a d_j_ eu dix– pour mettre l’islam sur un pied d’_galit_ avec les autres religions. A gauche, Manuel Valls, d_put_-maire PS d’Evry (Essonne), soutient l’id_e. “commission de r_flexion” Mais ils restent isol_s. Le pr_sident Jacques Chirac ainsi que le Premier ministre Dominique de Villepin, qui a lanc_ une Fondation pour financer l’islam, ne veulent pas toucher _ la loi. Fin octobre, pour le centenaire de la F_d_ration protestante de France qui r_clame depuis fin 2002 un toilettage de la loi, M. Sarkozy a annonc_ une “commission de r_flexion juridique sur les relations des cultes avec les pouvoirs publics”. Elle rendra ses conclusions en juin. Hormis les protestants, les grandes religions l’ont accueillie avec r_serve. Les catholiques, qui ont mis vingt ans _ s’accomoder de la loi, redoutent d'”ouvrir la bo_te de Pandore”, selon l’expression du cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger. “Sans remettre en question les grands _quilibres trouv_s au cours d’un si_cle d’application de la loi de 1905, nous voulons, comme catholiques, apporter notre pierre _ l’_dification, sans cesse _ reprendre, de notre unit_ nationale”, vient de rappeler le pr_sident de la Conf_rence des _v_ques de France, Mgr Jean-Pierre Ricard. “Ceux qui veulent _carter les religions de l’espace social et les enfermer dans le seul domaine des convictions priv_es se trompent de si_cle”, a-t-il ajout_. Outre l’islam, nombre d’autres religions se sont d_velopp_es depuis 1905 –bouddhisme, _vang_lisme– ainsi que des mouvements comme la scientologie ou les T_moins de J_hovah, estim_s sectaires en France mais pas ailleurs notamment aux Etats-Unis qui accusent les Fran_ais d’entraves _ la libert_ religieuse. Pour leur part, les T_moins de J_hovah ont d_pos_ le 25 f_vrier un recours contre un redressement fiscal de 23 millions d’euros devant la Cour europ_enne des droits de l’Homme.

Chirac, Prime Minister Say No To State Support For Mosques In France

MARSEILLE, France (AFP) – In a major broadside, President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin rejected a senior government minister’s idea of using state funds to build mosques and train Islamic religious leaders. Chirac obliquely accused his arch rival – Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to seek his job in the 2007 presidential election – of trying to “open up a new and pointless debate in France on topics that enjoy consensus.” Raffarin said for the government to get mixed up in religion in any way would undermine the very foundations of the French republic, which is based on a strict separation of church and state.

Europe Battles Islam’s Rise, Via Head Scarves

By Mathew Schofield With immigration from Muslim countries rising throughout Europe, politicians across the continent are pushing for laws reining in the Muslim community. Often the legislation is being introduced by politicians who represent centrist and leftist parties that traditionally champion human rights. The movement has little opposition. When France’s 577-member National Assembly approved the head-scarf ban last month, only 36 legislators voted against it. The margin was just as one-sided when the Senate gave it final approval Wednesday, 276-20. Top French officials, including President Jacques Chirac, have said the ban will help preserve France’s secular national character. Muslims have become fair game for a number of European political factions. Feminists say the head scarf is a sign of the oppression of women. On the right, politicians say Muslims will tear apart the fabric of all that’s European.

Moroccans’s demonstration against French President Jacques Chirac’s decision of banning the veil

For Moroccans to demonstrate against French President Jacques Chirac’s decision of banning the veil as a religious symbol at schools, it reflects a religious position more than a political one. Although it is difficult to reduce the Islamic issue to the wearing of the veil, or not, it is obvious that extremist circles in France, and outside, will find in the argument a pretext to accuse Islam of extremism and exaggeration.