Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

#TECH 24

Mind the Gender Gap : getting more women into the tech sector

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Bolivian children: heading to work aged 10

Read more

  • Air Algérie crash site located, France sending military unit

    Read more

  • Air Algérie crash: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Pope meets with Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death for apostasy

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to easy victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European aviation agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

  • At least 60 killed in attack on prison convoy near Baghdad

    Read more

  • Cycling is ‘winning the war on doping,’ says expert

    Read more

  • Ceasefire agreed for Central African Republic

    Read more

  • Can Jew-kissing-Arab selfie give peace a viral chance?

    Read more

  • Botched Arizona execution takes nearly two hours

    Read more

France

Interior minister accused of racism after remark

Video by FRANCE 2

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-09-11

Some critics of French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux (centre of photo) have said he should resign after he made a joke, which they say was racist, about a young Arab. He and his defenders, however, say he was misinterpreted.

AFP - France's interior minister sparked a storm of protest and accusations of racism Thursday after a video showed him making an apparently derogatory joke about French citizens of Arab origin.

"When there's one, it's OK," Brice Hortefeux, a key minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, said in the film posted on Le Monde newspaper's site that rapidly became an online hit on a host of video websites.

"It's when there are a lot of them that there are problems," he said in the film Le Monde said shows him getting ready to pose for a photo with a young man from France's large community of Arab origin.

The young man, referred to as Amin, is seen in the middle of a small group of laughing and joking activists from Sarkozy's UMP party at the party's summer gathering in Seignosse in southwest France on September 5.

One woman can be heard saying about the man, who is also seen laughing and apparently enjoying himself: "He eats pork, he drinks beer."

To which Hortefeux replies: "He doesn't correspond at all to the prototype." He then goes on to make his comment that "when there are a lot of them that there are problems."

The Socialists, the main opposition party, called for Hortefeux's resignation and described the comments as "shameful and unspeakable."

"The question is not whether he (Hortefeux) should resign or not, but what he is still doing in the government," said Socialist party spokesman Benoit Hamon.

A range of rights groups and opposition politicians expressed outrage at what they said was a clearly racist remark, with many calling for the minister to step down from the job Sarkozy appointed him to in June this year.

But Hortefeux issued a statement to denounce "a vain and ridiculous attempt to create a controversy" and said that not a single word uttered by the minister made "reference to the supposed ethnic origin of the young activist."

And the young activist himself told Le Monde that the minister's comments had been taken out of context.

"It's disgraceful. I am Arab but he completely respected me, it wasn't at all out of place. And I do not consider that it was a blunder," said the man, who was not named by the newspaper.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon stepped into the row to stand by his interior minister, declaring that Hortefeux "was the "victim of a fairly scandalous campaign of defamation."

"Nothing he said could be held against him," Fillon told French television station TF1.

The controversy came just two days after Hortefeux put an end to a top French official's career after the man was accused of a racial slur at a Paris airport.

Hortefeux issued a statement condemning racism when he initially suspended the official in August.

"I will never tolerate racist or discriminatory speech in our country, especially by a state official of any kind. This behaviour violates the values of our republic," he said.

When Sarkozy came to power in 2007, he made much ado about appointing to his government several ministers from a range of ethnic backgrounds.

France has several million people of immigrant stock, many of them from former colonies in north Africa, but only a small number have made it into the country's business, political or social elites.

Hortefeux was immigration minister from 2007 until early this year.

During that time he increased the numbers of illegal immigrants forcibly expelled from France and developed the network of detention centres for illegal migrants.
 

Date created : 2009-09-11

COMMENT(S)