Candidate's Advocacy for Islam Controversial

April 6, 2007

Source: Houston Chronicle

Wire Service: AP

PARIS — French presidential front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy has backed off his proposal to modify French law to allow state support for mosques, but said in an interview he wants to keep Islam in France "cut off from foreign influences."

Sarkozy, of Jacques Chirac's ruling conservative party, has upset many in fiercely secular France by questioning the 1905 law separating church and state.

He suggested it be modified to allow public financing of places of worship, specifically mosques, to better integrate the estimated 5 million Muslims in France, which is historically Roman Catholic.

But in an interview in the Catholic daily La Croix, Sarkozy said the law was too much a "monument" to change hastily.

"I'll pursue discussions with all religions," he said. "Before touching (the law), one must be very careful."