French presidential candidate compares Holocaust to anti-Muslim bias

French Jews accused a left-wing presidential candidate of encouraging Holocaust denial following his comparison of the Nazi persecution of Jews to the situation of French Muslims today. Vincent Peillon, who is running in the Socialist Party primaries ahead of the elections this year, made the analogy Tuesday during an interview aired by the France 2 television channel. Peillon, a former education minister who has Jewish origins, was commenting on a question about France’s strict separation between state and religion, referred to in France as “laicite.” “If some want to use laicite, as has been done in the past, against certain populations … Forty years ago it was the Jews who put on yellow stars. Today, some of our Muslim countrymen are often portrayed as radical Islamists. It is intolerable.” In a statement Wednesday, CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, accused Peillon of making “statements that only serve those trying to rewrite history.”

Peillon neither retracted his remark nor apologized in a statement published Wednesday on his website, but said he would wanted to elaborate on what he meant in light of the controversy it provoked and to “refine my view, which may have been misrepresented because of brevity.” Peillon wrote that he “clearly did not want to say that laicite was the origin of anti-Semitism of Vichy France,” which was the part of the country run by a pro-Nazi collaborationist government. He also wrote that “what the Jews experienced under Vichy should not be banalized in any way” and that he was committed to fighting racism and anti-Semitism. “I wanted to denounce the strategy of the far right, which always used the words of the French Republic or social issues to turn them against the population. It is doing so today with laicite against the Muslims,” Peillon wrote.

But in its statement condemning Peillon’s remark, CRIF wrote that the history concerning the deportation of more than 75,000 Jews from France to concentration camps and death and the looting of their property, “as well as discriminatory laws such as the one about wearing yellow stars, should not be instrumentalized to create a false equivalence of suffering.” CRIF “demands a clarification and immediate correction on the part of Vincent Peillon,” it said. Peillon, a lawmaker in the European Parliament, announced his candidacy in December to succeed President Francois Hollande as party leader and run as its candidate in April. He was appointed education minister in 2012 and served for two years. In the Socialist primaries, Peillon will face Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who has strong support in the Jewish community. Peillon’s mother, Françoise Blum, is Jewish. Peillon, who rarely talks about his Jewish roots publicly, signed a petition by the left-wing Jcall group, the European counterpart to J Street, supporting Palestinian statehood. In 2009, he celebrated the bar mitzvah of his son Elie at a Paris synagogue. He has another son, Isaac. Peillon is married to Nathalie Bensahel, a journalist who has written about about France’s anti-Semitism problem.

Marine Le Pen vows to ban ‘all religious symbols’

All religious symbols, including the Jewish skull cap, will be banned if leader of the far-right French party National Front, Marine Le Pen, is elected president next year.

“It is clear that kippahs are not the issue within our country. But for the sake of equality, they should be prohibited,” said Le Pen. “If I requested to ban solely Muslim attire, people would slam me for hating Muslims.”

In an interview with France’s BFMTV station on October 16, Le Pen said she would extend a 2004 law banning religious symbols in schools to all public spaces.

“I know it’s a sacrifice, but I think the situation is too serious these days… I think every French person, including our Jewish compatriots, can understand that if we ask them for a sacrifice in order to help fight against the advance of this Islamic extremism… they will make the effort, they will understand, I am absolutely convinced because it will be in the best interests of the nation,” she explained.

Meanwhile, the French Jewish community has harshly condemned Le Pen’s proposal to ban the kippah, reported the Jerusalem Online.

 

 

Judeo-Islam Friendship Weekend in France

Le Figaro – November 8, 2010

French Jewish and Muslim communities recently met over couscous in Ris-Orangis (in Essonne) as part of a weekend of gatherings related to Judeo-Islamic friendship (the AJMF or l’amitié judéo-musulmane de France). The principle behind the gatherings is to meet within each other’s places of worship to share, exchange ideas and pray. This year approximately forty community groups in the Ile-de-France region participated.

French Catholics propose caution with possible burqa ban

Amid a heated debate about the Muslim veil, the French Catholic church warned Monday, February 1, against banning face-veils, calling on the European country to respect rights of its Muslim minority.

“The result could be the opposite of what is desired and lead to a reaction that increases the number of women wearing this garment,” said Bishop Michel Santier, the top French Catholic official for interreligious dialogue in a statement cited by Reuters. Santier regretted that the panel did not invite Christian or Jewish leaders to give their views during the six-month-long hearings, which ended in December. French Jewish leaders have already expressed concern about a veil ban.

More and more young Muslims call for an end on the debate on French national identity

The debate on national identity in France became more focused on young French Muslims following the comments of Nadine Morano at Charmes. The president of the CFCM (the French Council of the Muslim Faith), Mohamed Moussaoui, critiqued the stereotypical image promoted by Morano.

A spokesperson for the Union of French Jewish Students called the debate on national identity a “theatre for the expression of prejudicial racism”. Leftist parties in France have also pointed to how “dangerous” the debate is for cohesive national identity.

Along these lines, Dominique de Villepin called for the end of the “terrible” debate which should have never begun. The former prime minister stated, “In a period of crisis, we have more important matters to attend to than creating further division.”