French minister under fire over 'racist' remarks on Muslims youth

Socialist opposition, anti-racism campaigners condemn 'racist' comments of French minister for families on Muslim youth.

French minister under fire over 'racist' remarks on Muslims youth

Socialist opposition, anti-racism campaigners condemn 'racist' comments of French minister for families on Muslim youth.

Nadine Morano has told young Muslims living in France they should dress "properly", find a job and stop speaking "slang".

Opposition politicians from the left denounced the comments as racist, Reuters said.

Anti-racism groups and Socialist politicians accused Morano of stoking racial tensions and said the government should abandon its series of highly controversial national identity debates before they provoked a violent backlash.

The highly outspoken Morano, who is a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's inner circle, made the remarks on Monday evening in a small town in eastern France during a government-inspired debate on national identity. "We are not putting young Muslims on trial. I respect their situation. What I want is for them to feel French because they are French," she said in a recording played on French radio.

"I want them to love France when they live here, to find work and not to speak in slang," she said, adding: "They shouldn't put their caps on back to front."

"I was saying that with this caricature, and the stigmatisation that exists, I would advise them not only to wear their cap straight and not speak slang, but I explained also (they should) use the potential of their double culture," she said Tuesday.

The comments tapped into stereotypical perceptions of youths from tough suburbs on the fringes of France's big cities, many of whom are from an immigrant background.

However, back-to-front caps, baggy trousers and a distinctive form of slang known as "verlan", once associated with those suburbs, have long since spread to high schools around the country and to youths of all backgrounds.

"That confirms the caricatured view that several members of the government have of the youth of this country, with improbable generalisations about young Muslims suspected of not looking for work," he said.

"This is a political operation designed to pit French people against each another and to create a war of culture and identity," said Socialist parliamentarian Arnaud Montebourg.

The human rights group SOS Racisme urged Prime Minister Francois Fillon to intervene and bring his cabinet to order.

Morano's office said the minister's words had been taken out of context.

Some five million Muslims live in France, the largest such community in Europe. Many of them are immigrants from former French colonies in North and West Africa.

Sarkozy's government has tightly linked the issues of immigration and integration and launched the national identity debate last month, playing on a theme that had served Sarkozy well during his successful 2007 election campaign.

Critics say the countrywide discussions will simply open a Pandora's box of prejudice and extremism.

Agencies
Last Mod: 16 Aralık 2009, 08:46
Add Comment