Sarkozy joins allies burying multiculturalism

Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:53am EST
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy has declared multiculturalism a failure, echoing British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and confusing some French who say it was never tried here anyway.

His declaration, in a televised interview Thursday evening, also opened him up to criticism that he was the only French politician who flirted with idea that countries should accommodate immigrants' cultures different from their own.

France has stood out in Europe by proudly refusing to bend to some unfamiliar practices, most notably the Muslim veils it has outlawed in public and headscarves it banned from schools. Germany has been more flexible and Britain much more so.

Despite their differences, all three say they have a problem with the integration of Muslims and their statements on multiculturalism clearly focus on those minorities.

"It's a failure," Sarkozy said of multiculturalism. "The truth is that, in all our democracies, we've been too concerned about the identity of the new arrivals and not enough about the identity of the country receiving them."

"This raises the issue of Islam and our Muslim compatriots," he said. "Our Muslim compatriots should be able to live and practice their religion like anyone else ... but it can only be a French Islam and not just an Islam in France."

Cameron said last week that multiculturalism had failed and left young British Muslims vulnerable to radicalism. Amid a heated debate about Muslim immigration last October, Merkel denounced the approach and said newcomers must integrate.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?   Continued...

<p>France's President Nicolas Sarkozy answers questions from some of nine citizens on jobs, security, care of the elderly and other domestic concerns in a live broadcast at French TF1 television studios in Paris February 10, 2011. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer</p>