Islam can co-exist with secularism, President Francois Hollande said Thursday, warning in a speech seen as preparing the ground for a re-election bid that the anti-terror fight should not undermine French values.
The deeply unpopular Hollande has yet to announce whether he will run for a second term next year, but is widely expected to be a candidate.
In a passionate plea for tolerance, he defended the country’s Muslim minority following a vitriolic debate on the banning of the Islamic burkini swimsuit.
‘Nothing in the idea of secularism opposes the practice of Islam in France, provided it respects the law,’ Hollande said.
Secularism was not a ‘state religion’ to be used against other religions, he said in the speech in Paris, denouncing the ‘stigmatisation of Muslims’.
Mayors in around 30 towns this summer cited France’s century-old secular laws in banning head-to-toe swimwear on their beaches, unleashing a furore.