A French Leader Tackles Religion; Book Probes Islam And Assimilation

By Jamey Keaten, Associated Press PARIS In a new book seen as a prelude to a presidential bid, France’s finance minister is taking up the thorny question of how to reach out to an increasingly assertive Muslim minority and integrate it into a largely secular society. Nicolas Sarkozy argues his countrymen need to worry less about religious symbols and more about the help Muslims need to build a moderate religious structure grounded in French traditions. He says that will help stem extremism’s inroads into a community whose members often feel ignored and discriminated against. In “The Republic, Religions and Hope,” being published today, Sarkozy displays a thoughtful side that political observers said is part of a strategy to add gravitas to his reputation as a can-do man of action.