French president Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a clear labeling of halal meat and an end to separate swimming hours for Muslim females in public schools as he vowed to defend secular rules in France.
Sarkozy, currently campaigning for his re-election, pledged to uphold secular values in France, including cutting the number of immigrants to the country if he wins a new five-year term in a two-round election in April and May.
“There is no place in the republic for xenophobia, there is no place for racism... There is no place for pools with hours for men and hours for women,” Sarkozy told a rally in Bordeaux.
“Let’s recognise everyone’s right to know what they’re eating, halal or not. I’d like to see, therefore, the ticketing of meat according to its method of slaughter.
“We have to consider our holidays, the church and cathedral towers in our villages and towns, our eating habits, our morality, as aspects of our civilisation not just our religion: the civilisation of the French Republic,” he added.
In France, where a strict separation of church and state has been in force for a century, public displays of religious activity are frowned upon. An estimated five million Muslims live in France - the largest minority in any European country.
France banned the public wearing of face veils last year, including Arabic-style niqab and Afghan-style burqa. Those caught wearing them were liable to a fine of up to €150 or mandatory lessons in French citizenship.
The ‘burqa ban’, the first of its kind, was followed by a ban on praying in the streets in September last year.