News Agencies – June 26, 2012
The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) recently announced that it is seeking to reform its mandate to “assure the participation of the majority of the parties who make-up Islam in France and create conditions of confidence necessary for the unity and fraternity of French Muslims,” according to a press release.
This reform is said to target the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) who left the CFCM along with a number of other organizations due to previous reform initiatives they found were not acceptable to them during President Sarkozy’s presidency.
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.
This article in the the Guardian profiles Rachida Dati (b. 1965), former French justice minister, which she stepped down from in May 2009. She has come under scrutiny for her fashion sense and as a single mother of Algerian-origin. She was the second of 12 children born to north African immigrant parents, neither of whom could read or write, and yet by the time she was 41, she occupied one of the most senior roles in government as President Sarkozy’s justice minister, the first woman of Arab descent to be given a key ministerial position in the French cabinet. At 44, she is now a single mother to a one-year-old daughter, a member of the European parliament and the mayor of the 7th arrondissement in Paris. Dati believes the criticism she faces springs from class resentment more than anything else.
Dati is unequivocal in her support for banning the burka in public institutions, an issue currently being debated in France. “When you are part of a society, the first foundation of this social contract is trust,” she says. “To be totally hidden, to not show one’s face, is a challenge to that trust and one cannot construct a society without trust in each other… [the burka] does not correspond to our values.”
In a radio debate between Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (moderate) and leader of the opposition Mona Sahlin (social democrat), Reinfeldt refused to give a straight answer on the possibility of banning of burqas in Sweden. “We don’t need to hide our faces in this way in Sweden”, Reinfeldt said. Sahlin said she was against a law, and that she is willing to fight for a woman’s right to wear a burqa if she wants. When asked again later, Reinfeldt said he doesn’t support a burqa or niqab ban, and that he had been hesitant earlier our of respect for President Sarkozy.
According to Svenska Dagbladet (Independently moderate) none of the parties in parliament officially supports a ban on burqas and niqabs. But individuals in the ruling coalition say they would like to a ban. “It’s un-hygenical and disgusting”, says Annelie Enochsson of the Christian Democratic Party.
According to a census made by Expressen (independently liberal) and the Swedish research consultancy Demoskop, 53 percent of the Swedish population wants a law against wearing burqa and niqab in public, while 46 percent is said to be against a prohibition.
Lawmaker Jean-Francois Cope, head of President Sarkozy’s UMP party suggested he would submit a bill to have the veil banned not just from public buildings but also in the streets of France.
“We want a ban in public areas,” Cope said. However, the speaker of the lower chamber, Bernard Accoyer, said he felt his UMP party colleague’s plan risks “appearing premature” before the parliamentary panel issues its report.
Cope said after a meeting of Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement that he planned to file two distinct texts in January, one of which would ensconce the ban in a larger bill forbidding people from covering their faces on security grounds. The other text would be a resolution regarding respect for women’s rights. A resolution approved by lawmakers does not carry the weight of law, but solemnly affirms a principle.
Cope suggested a fine could be levied against anyone breaking the ban. However, he also suggested a period of mediation lasting several months “with the women in question and their husbands … to explain” and discuss the issue.
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.