Friday, November 05, 2004

Nicholas Sarkozy

I saw a programme on France3 about the Republic and religions, with various guests who have written books on the subject. These included none other than the previous interior minister, current finance minister and possible future President of the Republic.

Sarko made quite a good impression, arguing for tolerance. Secularism is not only about allowing people to practise no religion, but also about allowing those who so wish to practise their religion, whether Christianity, Judaism or Islam. Somebody else points out that the law of 1905 was to prevent the Catholic church from dominating French society, which is hardly a threat now. It is now being used to justify measures against the perceived threat of Islamic fundamentalism (i.e. the ban on ‘the veil’).

Sarkozy is quite sympathetic towards religion and he prays sometimes, but neither makes confession, nor takes communion (Est-ce que tu communies ? – Non). He says that for many people what was shocking about Leon Blum becoming Prime Minister in 1936 was not that he was of the Left, but that he was a Jew. Since the holocaust it has not been possible for anti-semitism to be expressed so openly, but it did not go away. That was why, as interior minister, he acted so firmly against any expressions of anti-semitism during the demonstrations about Iraq.

He says we have to believe that being a Muslim is compatible with being part of the Republic. The alternative is to ‘put them all on boats’, as Le Pen argues.

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