French Minister says Muslims should dress and speak properly
France is currently in the throws of a debate on what it means to be French and what French national identity is, a discussion that many feel has been stirred up by the ruling UMP Party in advance of regional elections as a means of speaking about two reliable right-leaning themes: immigration and integration.
In the context of this national debate, the Minister for Families Nadine Morano yesterday made some incendiary remarks at a public meeting in the east of France. She told those assembled that in order to integrate, Muslim youths should dress and speak properly. “I would prefer if young Muslims did not speak slang (“verlan”) or wear baseball caps backwards,” she remarked. Many are asking how narrow the interpretation of national identity can be if, as Morano sees it, it doesn’t include such basic elements of youth culture as dressing differently and being inventive with language. “Verlan”, the particular kind of French slang Morano referred to, takes ordinary French words and “inverts” them. For instance, “arabe” (Arab) becomes “beur”. Many linguists have pointed to this as an example of how the French language is alive and evolving. Critics and purists see it as a threat, however.
Predictably, the left-leaning press is unimpressed by Morano’s remarks. Liberation says this is just the latest in a series of remarks made by UMP politicians that are racist in nature. Earlier this year, the former Immigration Minister (currently Interior Minister) Brice Hortefeux was caught on camera telling a party member of Arabic origin that ‘one of you is ok but where there are many there is a problem.” The remark was made in jest but was broadly condemned.
Libération’s editorial warns against making a false distinction between being Muslim and being French.
“Of course we can debate what the nation means and what Islam means but not to the extent that it becomes a point-scoring exercise with the Front National (far-right party),” the paper notes.
The regional newspaper L’Est Républicain defends Morano in its editorial, saying the controversial remarks were taken out of context. Morano was merely giving examples of how following certain social codes is essential to integrating, it says.
Other stories in today’s international papers:
Current suburban train strike is ‘unacceptable’, says this right-leaning paper.
American Veterinary Association warns children not to kiss frogs, this over fears that the Walt Disney movie “The Princess and the Frog” might encourage the behaviour!