Sarkozy Delivers a Mixed Message to France's Muslim Immigrants

December 9, 2009

Author: Edward Cody

Source: The Washington Post

Faced with swelling unease over the place of Muslim immigrants in France, President Nicolas Sarkozy called Tuesday for tolerance among native French people but warned that arriving Muslims must embrace Europe's historical values and avoid "ostentation or provocation" in the practice of their religion.

Sarkozy's appeal, in a statement published by Le Monde newspaper, reflected concern that a government-sponsored debate on France's "national identity," sharpened by a recent referendum banning minarets in neighboring Switzerland, seemed to be contributing to expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment and generating resentment among Muslim citizens and immigrants.

"I address my Muslim countrymen to say I will do everything to make them feel they are citizens like any other, enjoying the same rights as all the others to live their faith and practice their religion with the same liberty and dignity," he said. "I will combat any form of discrimination.

"But I also want to tell them," he continued, "that in our country, where Christian civilization has left such a deep trace, where republican values are an integral part of our national identity, everything that could be taken as a challenge to this heritage and its values would condemn to failure the necessary inauguration of a French Islam."