French Muslims Undecided on President

Seeking the best candidate to serve interests of the sizable minority, French Muslims are still undecided on whom they would vote for in the country's 2007 presidential elections.

French Muslims Undecided on President

"French Muslims are looking for a candidate whose platform lives up to their  aspirations and defends their interests," Lhaj Thami Breze, Chairman of the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF), told Friday, November 24.

"We will vote for any candidate who has a clear stand on burning Muslim issues like Islamophobia, racism and discrimination, the right of Muslims to build schools and mosques and to wear hijab."

Hasan Farsado, the head of Union of Muslim Associations (UMA) in the Seine-Saint-Denis district, agreed.

"Muslims have no favorite candidate yet," he added.

Segolene Royal has won the candidacy of the Socialist Party as the first woman to run for the 2007 presidential elections.

Royal, a telegenic career politician who has built an image as a party outsider infused with fresh ideas, is tipped as the only candidate capable of challenging Nicolas Sarkozy, the potential candidate of the Union for Popular Movement (UMP).

Sarkozy, however, is being challenged by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.

Mohamed Al-Mesteri, director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), said French Muslims are in a "state of anticipation".

"We want presidential candidates from the right and the left to come clean on Muslim and immigrant issues," he said.

More than half of France's 5-6 million Muslims are eligible voters.

No Difference


"We want presidential candidates from the right and the left to come clean on Muslim and immigrant issues," said Mesteri.


Breze said the UOIF has asked for a meeting with the Socialist candidate.

"We want to know her stances on the issues of Muslims and immigrants," he added.

"Royal has no clear-cut position about these issues, regardless of the traditional position of the Socialist Party."

The Socialist candidate is not known for anti-Muslim stances.

Secularists even blame Royal for not supporting a ban on hijab in public schools.

Farsado, however, sees no gains in supporting Royal.

"Royal's stances are not different from those of the Socialists who generally marginalize the role of religion," he told IOL.

To Mesteri, the differences are very blur between Royal and Sarkozy.

"French Muslims see no difference between Royal and Sarkozy," he said.

"Both candidates have similar stances on Islam and immigration, though Royal's position about security and the suburbs are quite different from those of Sarkozy who described the suburbanites as 'scum' "

In October 2005, thousands of youths in the high-immigration suburbs took to the streets to protest the death of two youth fleeing police in Clichy-Sous-Bois outside Paris.

The three-week riots ignited pent up frustration among young men, many of North African origin, at racism, unemployment, marginalization and mistreatment by police.

Pro-Arab Issues

Farsado said French Muslims will vote for candidates who are generally supporters for Arab issues.

"Stances on the Palestinian problem, Iraq and the Islamic issues will define stance of the Muslim voters in the coming elections," he said.

He said that the French Socialists were known as less supportive of the Palestinian rights.

"They are known for their close ties with the Zionist lobby," he said.

Farsado said the Muslim vote rely counts in the elections, saying Muslim voters played a role in the defeat of Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin in the 2002 presidential elections after he had described the Lebanese resistance group Hizbullah as a "terrorist" movement.

Farsado, however, advise Muslims to caste their votes for loyalists of incumbent President Jacques Chirac.

"They are close to the French Muslims and sympathizers with the Arab issues," he added.

IOL has learnt that many French Muslim organizations have received signals that incumbent Chirac was mulling a reelection.

Communications have also been under way with French Muslim leaders to guarantee Muslim support for Chirac or one of his loyalists during the 2007 polls.

Farsado ruled out Muslim support for UMP candidate Sarkozy.

"Sarkozy has now a serious image problem within the Muslim minority in France," he said.

"Sarkozy is notorious for his stances during the 2005, his passivism during the Israeli war on Lebanon and bids to court US President George W. Bush's Republicans," he explained.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16