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French minister’s national anthem snub sparks resignation calls

© Photo: AFP Taubira (centre) at Saturday's cremony to mark the abolition of slavery

Text by Sam BALL

Latest update : 2014-05-13

Christiane Taubira (centre), France’s black justice minister, once again evoked the ire of the country’s political right Monday after failing to sing the French national anthem at a weekend event commemorating the abolition of slavery.

After critics posted remarks over the incident on Taubira’s Facebook page, the minister responded by confessing she had refrained from taking part in what she dubbed “karaoke” during Saturday’s ceremony at Paris’s Luxembourg gardens.

In a lengthy Facebook post of her own, Taubira (pictured, centre) said: “When the voice of the soloist stands out from the orchestra, I listen, and listen until the end.

"Some occasions are more suitable for contemplation … than stage karaoke.”

This last comment served to further infuriate opposition politicians, particularly France’s far-right National Front party, who called for Taubira’s resignation.

"By comparing La Marseillaise to ‘onstage karaoke’ and refusing to sing it, Christiane Taubira has revealed her true colours, and those of the administration,” said the party’s leader Marine Le Pen.

"This unacceptable gaffe is indeed symbolic proof of the highest order of their contempt for France, for its history and its people, who love to sing their anthem, and are proud of it."

Jean-Francois Copé, leader of the centre-right UMP, also criticised the Socialist Party minister.

"What is most shocking is that she could justify herself not singing the national anthem by speaking of karaoke," he said.

"She is a minister. There are certain things one does not say, that one does not have the right to say, and I think I am among millions of French people who are deeply shocked," he said.

An online poll carried by right wing French magazine Le Point on Monday published a poll showing that close to 80 percent of the more than 20,000 questioned also felt Taubira should resign.

Targeting of Taubira ‘not a coincidence’

Taubira, who was born in French Guiana, has frequently been the subject of criticism from the French right, largely for her role in pushing through last year's legislation to legalise gay marriage as well claims she is soft on crime.

However, hostility towards her has often taken the form of outright racism.

Last year, a local election candidate from the National Front said in a TV documentary that she would prefer to see Taubira "swinging from the branches, rather than in government", while the UMP was forced to expel a councillor over a racist image of Taubira posted on Facebook.

Taubira is not the first French politician not to sing along to France’s national anthem.

French daily Le Figaro posted a video montage on its website Monday showing a number of other well-known government figures remaining tight-lipped during renditions of the Marseillaise, including former President Nicolas Sarkozy of the UMP. But none of these incidents have sparked the same level of controversy.

France’s Education Minister, Benoît Hamon, came to Taubira’s defence, admitting that “like most other ministers” he also had not sung the anthem during Saturday’s ceremony “because it was being sung by a soloist”.

He said that, unlike Taubira, he had not been the target of criticism.

Taubira “has suddenly become the object of all these unjust controversies,” he told BFM TV.

Former finance minister Pierre Moscovici also defended the minister, suggesting there may be ulterior motives for the outcry.

“I think behind the attacks on Christiane Taubira are some quite unhealthy things,” he told i>Télé. “It is not a coincidence.”

Date created : 2014-05-12

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