Sarkozy says he's 'fought the most' for Muslims

19th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

DOHA, Dec 18 (AFP) - France's controversial Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday that he had fought the most for the rights of the country's estimated five million Muslims and that recent riots had nothing to do with Islam.

DOHA, Dec 18 (AFP) - France's controversial Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday that he had fought the most for the rights of the country's estimated five million Muslims and that recent riots had nothing to do with Islam.

He was speaking during an interview with the Arab channel al-Jazeera about the three weeks of rioting that swept poor sections of French cities in late October during which thousands of cars and public buildings were set ablaze and thousands of people arrested.

He also defended France's newly approved anti-terror measures.

"I am without doubt the one who has fought the most to recognise the rights that are owed to them," said Sarkozy referring to Muslims in France who have long complained about discrimination and marginalisation in the country.

"I insisted that Muslims pray in mosques instead of clandestine places, basements and garages and that they have imams that speak French and are trained in France."

Asked about his use of the word "scum" to describe the rebellious youth in French ghettos, Sarkozy said he did not normally use such language but that the grave situation at the time demanded "firmness".

"I do not normally use street language, I speak so that everyone would understand me," said the minister, who was on a visit to Qatar. "In the republic where I live, it is the thugs who must explain their actions and not the minister of interior."

Sarkozy's remarks have sparked anger among Arab and Muslim immigrant communities in France with many civic leaders calling for his resignation.

"Let's not mix Islam, which is a religion of peace, with the actions of thugs," said Sarkozy. "Islam has nothing to do with the actions of criminals, assassins and thugs."

Sarkozy said France's position as a beacon for tolerance and defence of human rights has not been shaken after the riots and its crackdown on terror suspects in the aftermath of the London attacks in July.

"Can you name one Arab country, where human rights are better protected than in the French republic," he challenged the journalist interviewing him.

French police investigating the funding of Islamic extremists have arrested a total of 28 people over the past week in the Paris region and uncovered a major arms cache, explosives and paramilitary gear in one northern suburb.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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