'Stop putting women at the center of identity debate,' EU Minister Çelik warns Hollande

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 16.10.2016 23:32

Turkey's EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik slammed French President François Hollande over his Islamophobic remarks on Muslims and migrants in France, saying he should stop placing women at the center of any debate about identity.

In his tell-all book, Hollande asserts that Muslim women could fully integrate into French society if they remove their headscarves and veils: "If we give [a Muslim woman] the possibility to fulfill herself, she will free herself from her veil and become a Frenchwoman, while continuing to be religious if she so wishes," President Hollande is quoted as saying.

Addressing Hollande's remarks on his Twitter account on Oct. 14, Minister Çelik said that President Hollande's rhetoric is a concrete examples of the Islamophobia rampant in Europe, saying: "Such a so-called ‘progressive' attitude, depending on concepts of ‘fulfilling and freeing herself' is actually liberal Islamophobia. Introducing any conditionality to veiled Muslim woman to become French is against the free will and fundamental rights and liberties of women," Çelik said.

Underlining that this attitude is also an obstacle to the integration of Muslims in the societies in which they live with their religious identities, Çelik stressed that what the world needs today is that everyone should be able to become a part of a free society with his/her own identity.

‘‘It is very dangerous to demand that people culturally assimilate to become a part of a free society. Lessons should be learned from bitter past experiences that were the consequences of imposing identities on people. Identity conflicts are exploited by those who wish to provide ammunition for acrimonious political conflicts. Therefore, one should refrain from any action that would provoke identity conflicts. Last but not least, one should stop placing women at the center of any debate on identities.'' he added.

The book reveals President Hollande's stance on immigrants and Muslims in the country. On the subject of immigration, the French president said he believes there are "too many immigrant arrivals that should not be [in France]."

President Hollande also reportedly told journalists in December 2015, a month after gunmen killed 130 people in Paris, that France had "a problem with Islam," comments that risk damaging his left-wing party base six months before a presidential election.

Hollande, France's most unpopular president in the last six decades, is unlikely to keep his seat in the upcoming presidential election.

France is home to the largest Muslim population in Europe, estimated at 4-5 million. The French Muslim community represents approximately 6 percent of the total French population of 58.5 million.

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