The Guardian – March 10, 2012
French President Sarkozy’s decision to make the labelling of halal meat pivotal to his re-election campaign has infuriated, alienated and dismayed France’s Muslim community, which may number as many as six million, and the backlash is growing. Members of the booming educated and entrepreneurial Muslim middle class say they are tired of being cast as scapegoats in Sarkozy’s wooing of the extreme right and have accused him of dangerous and divisive election tactics.
The phoney war over halal meat erupted in February when Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National, claimed consumers were eating halal unknowingly. Sarkozy, trailing the Socialist frontrunner François Hollande, accused her of whipping up an artificial controversy. Shortly afterwards, with Le Pen snapping at his heels in the opinion polls, Sarkozy performed a volte-face. In spite of surveys showing that voters were less concerned about halal meat than they were about the weather and football, he announced it was “the issue that most preoccupies the French”.
In alienating Muslims Sarkozy is ignoring the spending power – the halal market, for example, is growing at 20% a year more than organic food – of a socio-economic group that might otherwise have been tempted to vote for his business-friendly, free-market agenda.
News Agencies – December 23, 2011
France sparked diplomatic tensions with Turkey by taking steps to criminalize the denial of genocide, including the 1915 mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, prompting Ankara to cancel all economic, political and military meetings. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the draft law put forward by members of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling party was “politics based on racism, discrimination, xenophobia.”
“This is using Turkophobia and Islamophobia to gain votes, and it raises concerns regarding these issues not only in France but all Europe,” he told a news conference, adding that Turkey could “not remain silent in the face of this.”
News Agencies – March 11, 2011
Is French President Nicolas Sarkozy at risk of alienating Muslims in his own party? Muslim activists have called on Muslim members of the governing UMP party to leave the party in protest at a new round of official debates on secularism to begin next month. They say the debate is less about secular society and more about attacking their religion.
News Agencies – December 20, 2010
It is expected that French President Nicolas Sarkozy will take another lurch to the Right with a speech on New Year’s Eve calling Muslim prayers in the street “unacceptable”.
After his expulsions of gypsies and a crackdown on immigrant crime, the French President will warn that the overflow of Muslim faithful on to the streets at prayer time when mosques are packed to capacity risks undermining the French secular tradition separating state and religion.
He will doubtless be accused of pandering to the far Right: the issue of Muslim prayers in the street has been brought to the fore by Marine Le Pen, the charismatic new figurehead of the National Front, who compared it to the wartime occupation of France.
Marine Le Pen’s approval rating has risen to 33 per cent in recent weeks, according to one poll, only three points behind Mr Sarkozy’s, as she has criss-crossed the country articulating what a lot of older people believe: that France has been invaded by Muslims and betrayed by its elite.
This article in Libération charts Nicolas Sarkozy’s discourse on Arabic language instruction in France. The author suggests that while he has been extremely involved in the structuring of Islam in France and has presented himself as open to relationships with Mediterranean nations, there has been little advancement on his earlier promises related to Arabic instruction in public schools.
Philippe Portier, director of the Groupe Sociétés, Religions et Laïcité at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE), claims that in France today there is a “secularism of integration” which serves Muslims.
Portier notes how in his response to the minaret ban, French President Sarkozy emphasized how religious traditions work as social integrative forces. Portier also notes the different status of Catholicism and Islam in the Republic, and the factors which privilege the former.
Moreover, with the exception of government appointed groups like the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), Islam maintains few “pastoral” organizations to help guide the faithful in France.
In an opinion piece for Le Monde newspaper, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has deplored the “excessive” French media and political reaction to the Swiss minaret ban. In his article, he reminds the French people of their Republican values of tolerance and openness and of the mutual respect between “those who arrive” and “those who welcome.”
The French president claims he was “stupefied” by the response and suggests that instead of condemning the Swiss for the vote outcome, it is important to understand “what it intended to express and what so many people in Europe feel, including the French”. “Nothing could be worse than denial.” Sarkozy adds he is convinced that a yes or no response to such complex issues could only lead to “painful misunderstandings, a feeling of injustice” over a problem that could be resolved on a “case by case basis with respect for the convictions and beliefs of everyone”.
The yes vote was not a barrier to freedom of religion or conscience, he argues, while paying tribute to the Swiss system of direct democracy. “No one – and no more so than Switzerland – would dream of questioning these fundamental freedoms.”
Sarkozy claims he would not say no to minarets in France but cautioned that in such a secular country religious adherents should “refrain from all ostentation or provocation” of religious practices. Muslims should recognize France’s Christian tradition, he adds, adding that anything that resembled a challenge to this heritage “would condemn to failure the very necessary establishment of Islam in France”.
Sarkozy highlighted the defense of national identity in his 2007 election campaign and pressed for the public debate that is due to end in February with a list of proposals. France has 64 mosques with minarets but only seven are deemed to be full-height, according to Brice Hortefeux, the Interior Minister.
Turkey’s foreign minister requested that France should conduct EU entry talks with Turkey in a fair and impartial way. France will take over the EU’s six-month presidency in July, during which it will lead negotiations with Turkey. French President Sarkozy is against Turkey joining the 27-nation bloc