France’s President Hollande has admitted that his country has a problem with Islam and has warned that France’s national symbol could one day be a woman in a burka. He has also questioned the patriotism of French football stars of Middle Eastern descent.
His comments have been revealed via a new book titled A President Should Not Say That… The book details 61 private conversations Hollande held with Le Monde journalists Gerard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme between 2012, shortly after the President’s election, and this year.
The comments reveal that Hollande has changed his mind on mass migration into France during his tenure, admitting “I think there are too many arrivals,” the Daily Mail has reported.
And on France’s Muslim population, one of the largest in Europe, the President is said to have commented: “It’s true there’s a problem with Islam, it’s true. It’s not in doubt.”
France has been in turmoil over the role of Islam in the country in the last few months, with a number of French mayors implementing bans on burkinis in their region, a ban which was overturned by the French High Court.
During the row which ensued, the Prime Minister Manuel Valls was slammed for pointing out that Marianne, a symbol of the Republic of France, was often depicted with a bare breast.
Hollande opposed the ban, and following the court ruling insisted that Islam could co-exist with Christianity and Judaism in France.
But privately he mused that in the future, a burka-clad woman could become the new symbol of France, saying: “The veiled woman of today will be the Marianne of tomorrow.”
The comment has prompted widespread alarm, with many publicly wondering whether Hollande is calling for Marianne to be veiled.
The Republican mayor of the 17th arrondissement of Paris, Brigitte Kuster, called on Hollande to clarify his remarks, saying “They are open to being misread! What is this indecent provocation? François Hollande would do well to explain his thoughts on the matter. His comments undermine the Republic he is supposed to be a guarantor of.”
But Le Monde has clarified that Hollande has explained his remarks, reporting that the full quote is that a veiled woman will become the Marianne of tomorrow “Because, somehow, if we can provide the conditions for social development, the veiled woman will shed her veil and become French while retaining her religion, capable of wearing her values.
“Finally, what is the bet we made? It’s that women prefer freedom to bondage. [Now she may feel] the veil is for her own protection, but tomorrow she will not need to be reassured about her place in society.”
Meanwhile much ire has been directed at his comments on French ethnic minority football stars, who he called “guys from the estates, without references, without values, who leave France too early”.
He insisted the footballers, many of whom have moved abroad when their careers were in the ascendency, are symptomatic of a “fragmentation, an ethnicisation” which is taking place in France, adding that the “facts were terrible.”
“There is no attachment in this France team,” he insisted, and he claimed that Muslim players were poorly educated and not “psychologically prepared to know the difference between good and evil”.