The “pains au chocolat polemic”, as it has been dubbed in French press, started on Friday when Copé made a speech in Draguignan, between Nice and Marseilles, during a conference.
“It is areas where I can understand the exasperation of some of our compatriots – fathers or mothers just coming home from work at night to find out their son had his pain au chocolat snatched from his hands at the school gates by thugs who say he shouldn’t be eating that during Ramadan,” he said during the conference.
Copé defended the claim during an interview on France 3 yesterday: “Some people exploit religion to provoke the Republic.
“This has nothing to do with the right to worship, which, in our country, works very well.”
But Copé’s fellow party members were quick to criticise his comments – former finance minister François Baroin judged the anecdote as “toxic”.
Former foreign minister Alain Juppé said: “Copé made a declaration I cannot approve, but what’s more he made a meal of it and gave lessons in morality – that is something I cannot support.”
Interior minister Manuel Valls said this morning on international radio station RTL: “I have respect for Jean-François Copé, I see he is passionate about France – but here, he’s losing it.”