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Hollande: Veiled Muslim woman is future symbol of France

The French leader says the country has a "problem with Islam" [AFP]

Date of publication: 14 October, 2016

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The French president has made controversial remarks on Islam, revealed in a new book which documents the interviews he has given during his five years in office.
A veiled Muslim woman could become the future symbol of France, President Francois Hollande has said in a string of controversial remarks published in a new book.

The French leader said the country has "a problem with Islam" and that a woman should remove her headscarf in order to fully integrate in French society.

"The veiled woman of today will be the Marianne of tomorrow," the president is quoted as saying.

"If we offer her the right conditions to blossom she will liberate herself from her veil and become a French woman."

The book A President Should Not Say That: Secrets of Five Years in Office is a collection of comments Hollande has made in 60 interviews by Le Monde journalists Gerard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme.

The 62-year-old president, whose low popularity ratings makes it uncertain he will stand for re-election next year, also discussed women, his dismay over the national football team and his former presidential rival Nicholas Sarkozy, who he described as "a Duracell bunny who is perpetually agitated".

But his remarks on Islam are set to stir the most controversy.

It's not that Islam is a problem because it's a religion that is in itself dangerous but because it wants to assert itself as a religion on the Republic

"It's true there is a problem with Islam and nobody doubts that. There's a problem with Islam because Islam demands places (of worship), recognition. It's not that Islam is a problem because it's a religion that is in itself dangerous but because it wants to assert itself as a religion on the Republic. What might also be a problem is if Muslims don't criticise acts of radicalisation, if imams behave in an anti-republican way."

On Muslim women in France he said: "Perhaps the veil is a kind of protection for her, but that tomorrow she will not need it in order to be reassured of her presence in society."

On migrants, the book quotes Hollande as saying there were "too many arrivals".

France has been a destination for thousands of refugees fleeing war and poverty in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Last month Hollande vowed to "definitively dismantle" the Calais camp, home to 7,000 migrants, and called for Britain to play its part.

"We teach them to speak French and then another group arrives and we have to start all over again," Hollande told the book's authors. "It never stops... so, at some point it has to stop."

In August, France's highest administrative court suspended a controversial ban on the "burkini" by a French Riviera town after it was challenged by rights groups.

The burkini ban triggered a fierce debate about women's rights and the French state's strictly-guarded secularism.

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