‘French Muslims must make an effort to adapt to France’

Conservative Muslims should do more to integrate into mainstream French society says the Frenchman who was controversially chosen to head France's new Foundation for Islam.

'French Muslims must make an effort to adapt to France'
Photo: AFP

The 77-year-old former defence minister chosen to head France's new Foundation for Islam in France on Monday called on conservative Muslims to try harder to integrate into society.

The appointment of Jean-Pierre Chevenement (see photo below) sparked controversy in August, with many questioning why the post went not to a Muslim, but to a political veteran known for his rigidly secular views.

Shortly after his nomination, he came under fire for tweeting that Muslims should “be discreet, like everyone else”, in the midst of fiery debate over the “burkini” full-body swimsuit.

On Monday, he told a group of foreign correspondents he found it “in very bad taste of those (burkini-wearing) women to go bathing two weeks after the Nice attack, 20 or 30 kilometres (miles) away” from where 86 people were killed by a rampaging radicalised truck driver.

“It was bound to cause surprise, consternation and unease in the rest of the population,” Chevenement argued.

“Out of friendship for my compatriots of Muslim origin I'm asking them to make a little effort to adapt to the customs of the host society.”

But Chevenement, who served as interior, defence and education minister in successive Socialist governments in the 1980s and 1990s, said he opposed further restrictions on Islamic clothing in public places.

READ ALSO: What France can do to help its Muslims integrate

Several southern French beach towns near Nice banned the burkini over the summer, but the restrictions were struck down by the courts.

In 2010, France became the first country in Europe to ban the full veil in public spaces.

“I prefer to convince people rather than regulate,” Chevenement said, adding that the strict rules separating religion from public life in France were not meant to be “anti-religion”.

The Socialist government, in creating an Islamic foundation, aims to open a new chapter in relations between France and its estimated 4-5 million Muslims in the wake of a series of jihadist attacks.

On Sunday, the country will mark the first anniversary of the carnage wrought by a group of mainly French-born Islamic State jihadists, whose attacks on Paris nightlife spots killed 130 people and unleashed  divisive debate over Muslim integration.

In contrast to the French Council of the Muslim Faith, which handles religious matters, the Foundation for Islam will focus on lay issues, such as teaching foreign-born imams about French culture and setting up scholarships for promising Muslim students.

Chevenement said the biggest problem facing young Muslims was unemployment, and “the feeling that a CV from someone called Ali has less chance of being accepted than a CV from a Paul or a Pierre”, which he said was not always borne out by reality.

Big public and private companies had made progress towards greater diversity in the workplace, he said.

“Honestly, I think we should not always point a finger at the host society,” he said.


Surgeon fined for trying to sell Paris terror attack victim’s x-ray

A Paris court on Wednesday convicted a surgeon for trying to sell an X-Ray image of a wounded arm of a woman who survived the 2015 terror attacks in the French capital.

Surgeon fined for trying to sell Paris terror attack victim's x-ray

Found guilty of violating medical secrecy, renowned orthopaedic surgeon Emmanuel Masmejean must pay the victim €5,000 or face two months in jail, judges ordered.

Masmejean, who works at the Georges-Pompidou hospital in western Paris, posted the image of a young woman’s forearm penetrated by a Kalashnikov bullet on marketplace Opensea in late 2021.

The site allows its roughly 20 million users to trade non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – certificates of ownership of an artwork that are stored on a “blockchain” similar to the technology used to secure cryptocurrencies.

In the file’s description, the surgeon wrote that the young woman he had operated on had “lost her boyfriend in the attack” on the Bataclan concert hall, the focus of the November 2015 gun and bomb assault in which jihadists killed 130 people.

The X-Ray image never sold for the asking price of $2,776, and was removed from Opensea after being revealed by investigative website Mediapart in January.

Masmejean claimed at a September court hearing that he had been carrying out an “experiment” by putting a “striking and historic medical image” online – while acknowledging that it had been “idiocy, a mistake, a blunder”.

The court did not find him guilty of two further charges of abuse of personal data and illegally revealing harmful personal information.

Nor was he barred from practicing as prosecutors had urged, with the lead judge saying it would be “disproportionate and inappropriate” to inflict such a “social death” on the doctor.

The victim’s lawyer Elodie Abraham complained of a “politically correct” judgement.

“It doesn’t bother anyone that there’s been such a flagrant breach of medical secrecy. It’s not a good message for doctors,” Abraham said.

Neither Masmejean, who has been suspended from his hospital job, nor the victim were present for Wednesday’s ruling.

The surgeon may yet face professional consequences after appearing before the French medical association in September, his lawyer Ivan Terel said.