President Sarkozy joins French Muslims for Iftar
2 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to protect Muslims' rights as he joined the Iftar feast Monday at the Great Mosque in Paris, marking the breaking of the daily fast in the holy month of Ramadan.
2 October 2007
PARIS (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to protect Muslims' rights as he joined the Iftar feast Monday at the Great Mosque in Paris, marking the breaking of the daily fast in the holy month of Ramadan.
In the first such gesture by a French president to the country's sizeable Muslim minority, Sarkozy met senior Muslim clerics and promised: "I will be at your side to defend your rights. I ask you to be at my side to carry out your duties."
Sarkozy told his hosts: "Even in the government, some are observing this fast" of Ramadan. "This shows that from the top to the bottom of our society Islam is an integral part of our country.
"Much as it might displease some of those I oppose, Islam is also France."
But he also said France expected all its citizens to respect French core values such as the separation of Church and state, and he condemned extremists who were using Islam to spread hate.
"I haven't betrayed the commitment that I made to give all my backing to Islam in France, and to fight extremism with all my strength. The two things go together," he said.
"Certain extremists want to put an end to this peace which we have in our country. Those who kill in the name of Islam and want to push the world into a global religious war smear Islam by speaking its name.
"Those who want violence in the name of Islam, hatred for others in the name of Islam, have no business being on French soil."
With about five million Muslims, France is home to Europe's biggest Islamic community.
Sarkozy has encouraged institutional dialogue between mainstream French Muslim clerics and the broader society, but his tough stance on immigration has made him unpopular among Muslims.
France is also one of the few countries to have passed legislation banning visible religious symbols in public schools, such as the Islamic headscarf.
The law sparked a wave of anger and incomprehension among Muslims worldwide, but in France the controversy that surrounded its adoption three years ago has all but died down.
The Great Mosque of Paris opened in 1926 in the city's Latin Quarter.
Subject: French news