President Francois Hollande said that Islam could co-exist with secularism, warning in a key speech seen as preparing the ground for a re-election bid that the anti-terror fight should not undermine French values.
In the speech, delivered in Paris and coming in the midst of a national debate on the banning of the Islamic burkini swimsuit, Hollande said: “Nothing in the idea of secularism opposes the practice of Islam in France, provided it respects the law.”
In August, the mayors of around 30 towns in France cited laws concerning the secular nature of the state as part of the argument for the banning of swimwear which fully covers the bather.
However according to the AFP news agency, Hollande said that secularism was not a “state religion” to be used against other religions.
The state guaranteed “the right to believe or not to believe” as long the demonstration of that belief did “not disrupt public order,” he said.
Asking whether Islam could co-exist alongside a secular French state in the same manner as Christianity and Judaism, the president insisted: “My answer is yes, certainly.”
“The question the Republic must answer is: Is it really ready to make place for a religion that it did not expect to be this big over a century ago. There too, my answer is yes, certainly,” AFP reports.
Hollande also suggested in his speech that he is considering a bid for re-election. “I will not let the image of France be spoiled … in the coming months or the coming years,” he said.