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Sarkozy sacks 'diversity' adviser over Islam row

Abderrahmane Dahmane, the man appointed to advise French President Nicolas Sarkozy on how to promote racial and religious diversity, has been fired after openly criticising the ruling party's plans to hold a debate on Islam in France.


AFP - French President Nicolas Sarkozy fired an adviser he had hired to promote "diversity" after the appointee attacked his allies' approach to Islam and secularism, the former aide told AFP on Friday.

"He has just set me free. I am going to campaign to defend the dignity of Muslims in this country," said Abderrahmane Dahmane, who had served as Sarkozy's adviser on "diversity."

The sacking came after Dahmane spoke out against a plan by Sarkozy's UMP party to hold a "debate" on secularism and Islam, at a time of sensitivities over the government's treatment of France's six million Muslims.

"I have no intention of being fodder for Sarkozy and Cope," he said, referring to Jean-Francois Cope, the leader of the right-wing ruling UMP party and a strong backer of policies that Muslims have said stigmatise them.

These include a recent ban on wearing the full-face Islamic veil in public.

On Thursday he had branded Cope "a plague on Muslims" and urged Muslim UMP members to abandon the party unless it drops the debate which it plans to hold on April 5.

He defended Sarkozy on the issue, saying the debate had been "wanted by Sarkozy to defend Muslims" but said it had been distorted by hardline members of the UMP whom he branded "neo-Nazis."

Dahmane, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, had served Sarkozy for several years, campaigning for him during his 2007 presidential bid in the deprived urban districts that are home to many of France's Muslim immigrants.

One of the party's leaders, Valerie Rosso Debord, said Dahmane had been removed from his post for "outrageous comments" about Cope and the UMP and for making "odious comparisons" between the debate and pre-war anti-Semitism.

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