President Francois Hollande told the authors of a book just published that France has “a problem with Islam” and there are too many immigrants arriving in the country who “shouldn’t be here”.
Hollande made the controversial remarks to the authors of A President Shouldn’t Say That… in December 2015, a month after gunmen attacked Paris, killing 130 people. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) claimed responsibility for the deadly assault.
“It’s true that there’s a problem with Islam. No one doubts it,” Hollande is quoted as saying in the book published this week.
“It’s not that Islam poses a problem in the sense that it is a dangerous religion, but in as far as it wants to affirm itself as a religion of the Republic.”
Hollande also told the Le Monde journalists Gerard David and Fabrice Lhomme: “I think there are too many arrivals of immigration that shouldn’t be there.”
Immigration and national identity are key themes in campaigning for next year’s presidential election.
A string of attacks in France in the past two years, coupled with the Europe-wide migrant crisis, have stoked anti-immigration sentiment.
A heated debate about Muslim integration in staunchly secular France came to a head over the summer when about 30 towns banned the body-concealing “burkini” swimsuit. France’s highest administrative court later ruled that such a ban was a “serious” violation of basic freedoms.
The deeply unpopular Hollande has not yet declared whether he intends to stand for re-election