In an exchange on France's Radio Classique on Wednesday morning, Nicolas Sarkozy seemed to reveal that he intends to ban the wearing of the Muslim headscarf in public places in the name of equality.
“Are you preparing a proposal to ban the headscarf,” a journalist asked Sarkozy on the programme.
“Exactly,” the politician responded.
“Yes or no?” the journalist asked.
“Yes,” said Sarkozy.
“On French soil, we don't accept inequalities between men and women,” he added.
“No headscarves, no burkinis, now specific swimming times at the public pools, and strict equality when it comes to the rights and of men and women – that is the French republic.”
It was Sarkozy who banned the wearing of the full face veil – the niqab and the burqa in public places back in 2010, but forbidding Muslim women from wearing the headscarf or hijab would signal a severe tightening of the restrictions on traditional Muslim dress.
But while Sarkozy has repeatedly spoken of his desire to see the burkini beach wear banned in the wake of the uproar on French beaches earlier in the summer, the idea that he would ban the headscarf, has been played down by his own campaign team.
Sarkozy's team has since denied working on such a proposal, telling L'Express newspaper:
“We are still working on the burkini, not the headscarf. There is a media frenzy about this, but let there be no ambiguity.”
The matter appears to depend on which members of Sarkozy's team speak to the media.
The BFM TV channel spoke to one member of the team that claimed Sarkozy wanted to ban the burkini and the headscarf in the public, but not other religious symbols.
“We are working on a text that would forbid the wearing of signs and emblems that belong to an ideology that calls for inequality,” the team member told the channel.
Nevertheless the story has been widely reported on French news sites following Sarkozy's radio interview. Given how far Sarkozy has shifted to the right during his election campaign it would perhaps not surprise many if he did favour a ban on wearing the headscarf on France's streets.
But the former president may have to quickly do a few more interviews to clear things up.
Since 2004, the headscarf has been banned from schools and other government buildings after a law prevented people from wearing “conspicuous religious symbols”.
Although the law makes no reference to specific symbols many considered it was to specifically target Muslim headscarves.
The crackdown may have caused controversy and provoked headlines across the globe, but in France, where secular principles, known as laïcité, hold strong, polls repeatedly showed that the public firmly support these so-called veil laws.