French Minister of Youth furious at racist remark

News Agencies – May 16, 2011

THE Minister for youth Jeannette Bougrab walked out of a UMP meeting after a party member used racist language during a debate. 

Bougrab, the former president of the anti-prejudice rights watchdog La Halde, later demanded an apology from the audience member. 

She had been taking part in a debate on secularism during a meeting of the Franche-Comté branch of the UMP. 



As the subject of new funding plans for the building and restoration of mosques and churches was raised, a man, later identified as a 70-year-old former doctor, shouted out that he had had enough of “money going just toward bougnoules” – a racist term for people of North African origin. 

While a party member in the audience said the term was not directed at the minister, she responded saying she was descended from a family of Harkis (Muslim Algerians who fought for France during the Algerian war).



 While there was no question of expelling the man from the party, UMP party branch secretary Michel Vienet said, the member had been asked to write to apologise to the minister.

Green star worn in France to oppose debate on Islam

News Agencies – March 28, 2011

Abderahmane Dahmane, Sarkozy’s former diversity advisor called on Muslims to wear a green star to protest the debate on secularism proposed by the UMP. A statement issued by Dahmane and Hassan Ben M’Barek, spokesperson for Banlieues Respect, which presents itself as a union of associations but whose influence seems limited, said that the green star on their clothing will show that Muslims in France have decided to demand the cancellation of the debate on Islam and the end of UMP Islamophobia.

France’s Sarkozy fires diversity head Dahmane

BBC News – March 11, 2011

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has fired his diversity adviser after he called on Muslims not to support the governing UMP party. Abderrahmane Dahmane, a Muslim and former UMP official appointed to his post only in January, was protesting against a planned debate on Islam. He said Muslim members of the UMP should not renew their party membership unless the debate was cancelled.

The UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) is planning to hold a public debate on 5 April on “Islam and secularism”. Speaking on March 10th, Mr Dahmane compared the situation of French Muslims to that of Jews during World War II and said the debate had been planned by a “handful of neo-Nazis”.

French Muslims urged to leave French President Sarkozy’s UMP party

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.

Sarkozy’s Islam debate opens rift in French ruling party

News Agencies – March 4, 2011

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans to hold a national debate on the role of Islam in French society has opened a rare rift in his centre-right party, potentially damaging his credibility ahead of a presidential election. Fears about the role of Islam in France’s secular society have become a key campaign theme in the wake of controversies — largely fed by the far-right — over Muslims praying in the street, halal-only fast-food restaurants and full-face veils. With Sarkozy intent on keeping moderate voters from defecting to the far-right, he has encouraged the ruling UMP party to hold a public debate starting on April 5 to discuss the compatibility between Islam and France’s secular values.

But weeks before the debate has begun, and with little clue as to its format, dissent within the UMP over the wisdom of the idea has hurt Sarkozy’s credibility, hinting that his leadership of the party is less than ironclad. National Front leader Marine Le Pen has been gaining points in the polls for pounding home the idea that Islam has become an encroaching presence in French society. The only politician to welcome the idea was Le Pen, who mocked the UMP by saying that a debate on Islam would help her party to win 25 percent of the vote during the election.

One issue the UMP intends to address is public financing for mosques after the controversy over street prayers shone a light on the lack of suitable mosque space for Muslims in France. A 1905 law separating church and state forbids the use of taxpayer money to support any faith.

Poll suggests 39% of French agree that Muslim prayer is like German occupation

News Agencies – December 18, 2010

Almost 40% of the French agree with National Front Marine Len Pen’s statements on Muslim prayer in the streets, according to France Soir. The vice-president of the Front National compared Muslim prayer to occupation. Among voters of Sarkozy’s UMP, 54% agree with Le Pen. In total, 61% of the French disagree with Len Pen: 82% of left-wing voters and 46% of UMP voters.

French fast food chain sparks halal burger debate

A French council has lodged a complaint against a fast food chain that serves only meat that conforms with Islamic dietary laws at a local branch. The mayor of Roubaix, in northern France, said the halal menu constituted “discrimination” against non-Muslims.

The Roubaix branch is one of several restaurants at which the chain, Quick, took non-halal products and pork off the menu in November. The move has triggered the latest controversy over France’s Muslim minority. Several deputies from French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party have condemned the move, while Marine Le Pen, a vice-president of the far-right National Front, warned of “Islamisation”.

In Roubaix, Mayor Rene Vandierendonck, a socialist, called for a boycott of the Quick branch, and the town council has filed a complaint for discrimination with a regional court in Lille.

Quick decided to take a bacon hamburger off the menu at eight of its 350 branches, replacing it with a halal version that comes with smoked turkey. The Quick manager responsible for the Roubaix branch said there had been a slight increase in business after the introduction of halal menus and that he had not received complaints from customers.

Jean-François Cope suggests burqa ban in France

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.

French socialist party member against law opposing burqas in public spaces

Christophe Caresche, PS (Socialist Party) deputy of Paris, has positioned himself against a law banning headscarves in public places, seeing it as an arm which could accelerate “an already marginal phenomenon.”

While claiming that wearing the burqa and niqab “call into question women’s dignity in the public sphere,” a ban being pushed by UMP deputies “risks to play into the game we think we’re battling against.” He also noted that legally it seems doubtful that such a ban could pass alongside the current constitution.

André Geron’s commission on the topic is set to make its recommendations at the end of January 2010.

French commission on the burqa to hear Tariq Ramadan

The national parliamentary commission investigating niqab and burqa-use in France will receive testimony from Tariq Ramadan on December 2nd.

Le Figaro reports that according to André Gerin, there is increased division among the UMP on the importance of a law banning their use.

The report is expected to be made public in January 2010.