France's ruling conservative party is going ahead with a debate of the place of Islam in society, despite criticism that it's an attempt to pander to the right. Even the French prime minister is refusing to attend.
French Muslims say the debate stigmatizes them
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party is to press ahead with a public forum to address concerns about the place of Islam in French society, despite criticism from several quarters.
Issues to be debated at a Paris hotel on Tuesday include the holding of Muslim prayer sessions in French streets and the need for halal-only restaurants.
Among those due to attend was French Interior Minister Claude Gueant, who sparked recent controversy by saying the French "no longer felt at home" in connection with Islamic practices. Party spokesman Jean-Francois Cope was also set to be present.
Fillon, who is against a drift to the right, is set to stay away
Leaders of groups representing France's Muslims have said the debate could alienate the community which, numbering at least 5 million people, is the European Union's largest Islamic minority.
Concern within ruling party
Some UMP members also opposed to the debate say it legitimizes the agenda of the extreme right. Prime Minister Francois Fillon has voiced public concern about a perceived drift of the party to the right and has refused to attend.
The phenomenon of Muslims praying in the street was seized upon recently by the far-right National Front. The party saw its popularity increase significantly in local elections last month.
France has a strong tradition of secularism and notably banned the wearing of full face veils in public last year.
Author: Richard Connor (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Nicole Goebel
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been living in Russia for nearly one year. Now German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has suggested he go back to the US, sparking outrage among left-wing politicians.
Ratings agency Moody's has slashed the credit rating of Germany's biggest lender. It said it wasn't convinced Deutsche Bank would return to higher profits, as expressed in the bank's latest earnings report.
French authorities have handed over to Belgium the man suspected of carrying out the May 24 fatal shooting at Brussels’ Jewish Museum. He was arrested in Marseilles roughly a week after the deadly incident.
Not only the Nazis, but also socialist East Germany systematically seized artwork from individuals to sell for valuable Western currency. A recent restitution case gives hopes to the heirs of the dispossessed collectors.