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MIDDLE EAST

‘Islam compatible with democracy’ – Juppé

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé argued on Thursday that Islam and democracy are not incompatible, insisting that the Arab Spring, which has already toppled three dictators, should open the way to political pluralism.

“I refuse to accept the idea that Islam and democracy are incompatible and that the Arab people only have a choice between dictatorship and fundamentalism,” Juppé told hundreds of students at the University of Tripoli.      

“It has been our desire to establish contacts and dialogue with all the actors of the Arab Spring, without exception, on the condition that they respect the rules of the democratic game, principal among which are the renunciation of violence, the rights of men and women, and respect for minorities.

“We cannot refuse to people who have been so long condemned to silence the right to express their choices. 

In Tunisia, the first Arab country to overthrow its dictatorship, the Islamist Ennahda party came out on top in October parliamentary elections. Islamists are also taking the lead in polls now underway in Egypt and gaining prominence in Libya.

On Wednesday, during a press conference with Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib, Juppé declared that it was up to the Libyan people to “build democracy as they see fit” following the overthrow of strongman Moamer Kadhafi.

ISLAM

Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

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