Nicolas Sarkozy has deplored the “excessive” French media and political reaction to the Swiss minaret ban, in an opinion piece for Le Monde newspaper.
The French president said he was “stupefied” by the response and wrote that instead of condemning the Swiss for the vote outcome, it was important to understand “what it intended to express and what so many people in Europe feel, including the French”.
Sarkozy said he was convinced a yes or no response to such issues could only lead to “painful misunderstandings, a feeling of injustice” over a problem that could be resolved on a “case by case basis with respect for the convictions and beliefs of everyone”.
The yes vote was not a barrier to freedom of religion or conscience, he argued, while paying tribute to the Swiss system of direct democracy.
“No one – and no more so than Switzerland – would dream of questioning these fundamental freedoms,” wrote Sarkozy in the piece published on Tuesday.
He said he would not say no to minarets in France but cautioned that in such a secular country religious adherents should “refrain from all ostentation or provocation” of religious practices.
Muslims should recognise France’s Christian tradition, he said, adding that anything that resembled a challenge to this heritage “would condemn to failure the very necessary establishment of Islam in France”.
swissinfo.ch and agencies