The Two Sarkos


He supported the Dutch prime minister's attacks on filmmaker Geert Wilders, said that Islam is "one of the greatest and most beautiful civilisations the world has known," angered the socialist opposition by praising the Saudi leadership who, apparently, "appeal to the basic values of Islam to combat the fundamentalism that negates them," and long-ago created the French Council of Muslim Faith "to represent French Muslims in parliament."

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy has also railed against the burka (a style of dress "not welcome" in France) and offered full-throated support for the controversial ban on the wearing of headscarves in public schools. Now he has weighed in on the Swiss minaret vote, telling his fellow citizens they should attempt to "understand" the decision of voters, and advised Muslims in France to be "discreet" about practicing their faith. From the (London) Times:

Over the past week, Mr Sarkozy had appeared to retreat from his original comments following a backlash over the way that they were being used against immigrants, particularly Muslims.

But in a column for Le Monde, Mr Sarkozy returned to his theme and said that the result of the Swiss referendum showed how important it was for France to define its identity.

"Instead of condemning the Swiss out of hand, we should try to understand what they meant to express and what so many people in Europe feel, including people in France," he wrote. "Nothing would be worse than denial."

Mr Sarkozy called for tolerance and underlined France's respect for all faiths, but his message was intended primarily to reassure those who are unhappy about what they see as a threatening Muslim presence in the country.

"Christians, Jews, Muslims, all believers regardless of their faith, must refrain from ostentation and provocation and … practice their religion in humble discretion," Mr Sarkozy wrote.

Addressing himself to Muslims, he wrote that anything that could appear as a challenge to France's Christian heritage and republican values would "doom to failure" a moderate Islam in France.

I blogged about the Swiss minaret ban here.