Jews, Muslims urge Sarkozy to drop Islam debate

By Jennifer Lipman, March 30, 2011
Nicholas Sarkozy

Nicholas Sarkozy

Jewish leaders in France have joined their Muslim, Christian and Buddhist counterparts to demand that President Nicholas Sarkozy should call off a contentious debate on Islam planned for next week.

The discussion, scheduled for next Tuesday, is intended to look at the role and responsibilities of Islam in the fiercely secular country. There are at least five million Muslims in France, the largest community in any western European country.

In a joint statement, representatives of several religions said the debate could add "to the confusion in the troubled period we are traversing."

Critics, including members of Mr Sarkozy's own UMP party, have condemned it for stigmatising French Muslims and giving into the far Right and the resurgent National Front.

The extremist party, lead by Marine Le Pen, took third place in second-round local elections on the weekend, winning 11 per cent of the vote.

Last updated: 12:42pm, March 30 2011