France’s President Francois Hollande admitted today that Islam is the problem facing the country and warned that the current trend would lead to having a woman in a burka as the national symbol of the French Republic. Undaunted by criticism, he also expressed doubts about the patriotism of French footballers of Middle Eastern ancestry.
The revelations are found in a new book entitled “A President Should Not Say That…”. The book records more than 60 private conversations between Hollande and Le Monde newspaper journalists Gerard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme. The conversations began in 2012, shortly after Hollande’s election, and continue until recently.
Serving as president appears to have altered Hollande’s initial views on mass migration. He admitted, “I think there are too many arrivals.” Regarding Muslims living in France, Hollande reportedly said “It’s true there’s a problem with Islam, it’s true. It’s not in doubt.”
The terrorist attack of November 2015 in Paris has been followed by increased turmoil. Earlier this year, a priest was savagely murdered by a Muslim teen in northern France who called for jihad. Additionally, numerous mayors have implemented bans on so-called “burkinis”: total body coverings worn by female bathers at beaches. The ban, however, was overturned by the supreme court of France. Prime Minister Manuel Valls was slammed during the controversy for pointing out that Marianne, a symbol of the French Repubilc, has often been depicted as sporting a bared breast. At the time, Hollande opposed the ban, insisting that Islam can co-exist with Christianity and Judaism in secular France.
Privately, Hollande said that a burka-clad woman could become the new symbol of France, replacing Marianne. He reportedly said, “The veiled woman of today will be the Marianne of tomorrow.”
Liberal French citizens, accustomed to seeing nude and semi-nude women on its beaches, have expressed alarm, wondering whether Hollande is calling for the veiling of Marianne.
Mayor Brigitte Kuster of the 17th arrondissement of Paris has called on the president to make himself clear. She said of his comments, “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.”
Brigitte Bardot as Marianne
Le Monde claims that Hollande has clarified his remarks and said that a veiled Marianne is possible “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.” The paper continued, “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.”
Hollande disparaged footballers coming from ethnic minority enclaves, such as the public housing estates in Paris that exploded in rioting during the Sarkozy government. He called them “guys from the estates, without references, without values, who leave France too early.” The president said that the soccer stars are examples of a “fragmentation, an ethnicization” taking place in France. Hollande added that these “facts were terrible.”
“There is no attachment in this France team,” Hollande said, while also claiming that Muslim players are poorly educated and not “psychologically prepared to know the difference between good and evil.”
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