Muslim have right to live their faith in France – Sarkozy
By Tousif Khan - Thu Mar 15, 4:50 pm
President Nicolas Sarkozy has told French Muslims that they have “the right to live their faith” in France and expressed hope that a divisive debate over halal meat in the presidential campaign has not been hurtful.
Sarkozy spoke Wednesday at the Grand Mosque of Paris where he inaugurated a memorial to Muslim soldiers who died for France during World War I.
Far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen criticized what she claims is an inundation of halal meat in the Paris region. Sarkozy followed by saying he wants meat marked so consumers know what they’re eating.
Muslims, and immigration, are constant themes in recent French presidential races, but the topic is rising to the fore with vehemence as the April 22 first-round vote nears. The final round is May 6.
Critics say Sarkozy is ogling supporters of extreme-right candidate Le Pen, who is third in polls after front-runner Francois Hollande, a Socialist, and the conservative president. Le Pen, who succeeds party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father, has worked to erase the image of the party as anti-Semitic — but now castigates what she says is the profile of Islam in France.
There are an estimated 5 million Muslims in France, the largest such population in Western Europe, and the latest generation is making increasing demands that the country accommodate needs set out by their religion or their customs.