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 – February 28, 2011
French Prime Minister François Fillon is opposed to a proposed debate about the place of Islam in France, if it would lead to the stigmatisation of Muslims. “If this debate must be focused on Islam and if it seems to lead to the stigmatisation of Muslims, I oppose it. I say it clearly: I oppose it,” Fillon told French radio station RTL.
The president of the ruling UMP party, Jean-François Copé, recently announced plans to launch a debate about religion, “especially Islam”.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared on 10 February that multiculturalism was a failure in France. He called for “an Islam of France and not an Islam in France”.
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.
French voters went to polling stations Sunday, March 14, in regional elections forecast to punish French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party in the last ballot-box test before the next presidential vote. French voters cast ballot in a two-round election to choose 1,880 councilors for 26 regional councils, which are responsible for regional transport, secondary education and local economic development.
Resentment has been growing at Sarkozy’s policies over the sluggish economy and skyrocketing unemployment, which soared above 10%, with nearly three million people now out of their jobs in 2009. Social tensions are also being felt. The government’s public debate on “national identity” has raised racial sensitivities and been widely slammed as a divisive project that stigmatizes immigrants.
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.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy says there is no place for full face and body veils such as the burqa, or for the debasement of women, in France. Sarkozy claims that all beliefs will be respected in France but says “becoming French means adhering to a form of civilization, to values, to morals.”
In a speech on national identity on November 12th, Sarkozy stated that “France is a country where there is no place for the burqa.” Sarkozy said in June 2009 that burqas would not be welcome in France. Since then a parliamentary panel has been looking into the possibility of banning them in public.
Speculation that the deaths of three Montreal-area sisters and their female caregiver could have been “honor” killings has rekindled the reasonable accommodation debate in the Quebec press.
Le Devoir columnist Jean-Claude Leclerc called the tragedy, which took place in Kingston, “the pretext for another dispute over tolerance in Canada.” Le Journal de Montreal’s Richard Martineau declared the killings a result of a “barbaric” extremist ideology and concluded by quoting French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s statement regarding the banning of the burqa in France: “We should not be ashamed of our values, we should not be afraid to defend them.”
In La Presse, Patrick Lagacé reserved some of his outrage for the police officers involved in last week’s press conference.
In his first interview with with the French Media, President Obama notes his close friendship with French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his motivations for attempting a better dialogue between East and West. Obama adds that the United States is home to many Muslims, and therefore there is national interest for such dialogue. While bemoaning his terrible French, Obama cites many of the things in France, especially from Provence, that Americans love like the cuisine and the wine.