The issue of France’s Muslims moved front and center into the presidential campaign with the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, excluding on Saturday any special indulgences for halal meat or separate swimming hours for Muslim women in public pools.
Echoing his 2007 campaign, Sarkozy insisted that French civilization must prevail in France. He created France’s first Ministry of Immigration and National Identity after being elected, but has since done away with it.
Muslims, and immigration, are constant themes in recent French presidential races, but the topic is rising to the fore with vehemence as the April 22 first-round vote nears – 50 days from now. The final round is May 6.
Critics say Sarkozy is ogling supporters of extreme-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who is third in polls after front-runner Francois Hollande, a Socialist, and the conservative president. Le Pen, who succeeds party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father, has worked to erase the image of the party as anti-Semitic – but now castigates what she says is the profile of Islam in France.