The French Prime Minister has said the majority of his countrymen consider Islam incompatible with the value of the Republic, before calling for universities to ban Islamic headscarfs.
Manuel Valls—a Socialist known for his uncompromising rhetoric on terrorism, law and order—made the hard-hitting comments in an interview with Libération newspaper.
He claimed it was “possible” to make Islam consistent with the West, but concede this was not yet the case and that most people in France regarded it as largely impossibly.
“I would like us to be able to demonstrate that Islam, a great world religion and the second religion of France, is fundamentally compatible with the Republic, democracy, our values and equality between men and women”, he said.
Asked if he was suggesting that Islam was not currently compatible with French society and values, he said: “Certain people don’t want to believe it, a majority of French citizens doubt it, but I’m convinced that it’s possible.”
France has a fiercely secular constitution, following the enlightenment values laid down after the French revolution. Accordingly, state workers in the public service are forbidden from showing any sign of religious belief.
In 2011, the Sarkozy administration extended the principle to Muslims, banning the full face Muslim veil in public places.
When Mr. Valls was asked whether headscarves should be banned by law from universities, he replied: “It should be done,” conceding that the constitution made it difficult.
At the beginning of the month, the Prime Minister caused another stir when he said the Islamic veil symbolises the “enslavement of women” and warned that Islamic extremism was “winning the ideological and cultural battle” in France, home of Europe’s biggest Muslim population.
For expressing an opinion, socialist Mr. Valls was quickly slandered as ‘far right’.
Abdallah Zekri, head of the Observatory on Islamophobia and a member of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, told BFM TV:
“We’re fed up of being stigmatised … [and] of this populist discourse which is worse than the far-right”.