The debate turned increasingly rabid after Interior Minister Claude Gueant referred to the number of Muslims in France as “a problem.”
Press TV —Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party was scheduled to open a controversial debate on Tuesday on secularism and Islam amid criticism that it was an attempt to pander to the right. Critics say the debate is aimed at poaching votes from the far-right National Front (FN) party as Sarkozy is trying to rebuild his flagging popularity figures. (And that’s a BAD thing? Being anti-Muslim makes you popular in France now, excellent!)
In a joint statement last week, leaders of various faiths in France voiced opposition to the debate, saying that it could fuel racial prejudice and stigmatize Muslims. (Soooo, what’s your point?)
France has the largest Muslim population in Europe. The country has seen rising tensions in relation to religion in recent years, and the upcoming controversial debate is being held just one week before a new law (bitterly-contested by some who see it as an unfair attack on Muslims) will outlaw the wearing of full-facial veils in public places. Supporters of the ban argue that the veil hides women’s faces and thus violates the ideals of secularism and equality.