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
With the help of airstrikes by Russia, President Bashar al-Assad's regime could soon take Aleppo. Capturing one of Syria's largest cities would be a turning point in the civil war, Middle East expert André Bank says.
You want to find a partner? A place to stay? A pizza? Smartphone apps help match supply to demand for any number of needs. In Belgium, there's now one for a need most parents know: finding a babysitter.
A parade float in the city of Düsseldorf showing the leader of Poland's ruling party as a dictator has caused shock in Warsaw. The depiction shows "contempt for Poland," said the country's foreign minister.
Painter Hieronymus Bosch died 500 years ago in August, 1516. For an entire year, the painter’s home town 's-Hertogenbosch will be transformed into a stage for Bosch's surreal world spanning heaven and hell.