PARIS - The Green Party candidate for the French presidency has called for equal treatment for all religions in France by honoring Muslim and Jewish holidays along with the catholic ones, blaming President Nicolas Sarkozy and far-right for dividing religious communities.
Each religion should benefit from equal treatment in the public sphere, Eva Joly said in Paris, France 24 website reported on Thursday, January 12.
I believe that national holidays should also be accorded to faiths other than the Catholic faith.
In her first campaign rally, Joly argued that national holiday status should be accorded to the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr and the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.
She said that recognizing holidays for other religions in France instated a key element of French identity.
The ElysÃ©e hopeful also blamed the policies of President Nicolas Sarkozy for dividing religious communities.
Yes, I'll say it, Joly said.
This [suffering] has been caused by five years of Sarkozy-ism.
She also criticized Sarkozy's far-right-leaning interior minister, Claude GuÃ©ant, and leader of the far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen.
When I hear Claude GuÃ©ant, when I hear Marine Le Pen, I feel for my France, for our France. Joly, who holds dual Franco-Norwegian nationality, added.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose popularity has plummeted over climbing unemployment and painful spending cuts, have worked hard to court the far-right supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Along with the niqab ban, Sarkozy's ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party started a debate last April on the role of Islam in secular France.
Playing far-right anti-immigrants policies, Interior Minister GuÃ©ant drew up new rules for foreigners trying to become French citizens which were enforced as of January 1, including new tougher tests.
Despite GuÃ©ant moves against immigrants, the far-right National Front party (FN) continued to bite into its pool of voters.
The Greens ElysÃ©e hopeful's proposal faced fiery comments immediately from all three leading parties.
France's national holidays have come about through our Christian history. We are not going to rub out our history, Minister of Higher Education and UMP member Laurent Wauqiez argued on French news channel BFM, France 24 reported.
Michael Sapin, campaign director for Socialist presidential candidate FranÃ§ois Hollande, told French news channel iTÃ©lÃ© also rejected Joly's suggestions.
While the state respects all religions, it recognizes none, he said, adding that Joly should bear in mind the great French principle of secularism.
Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Front party, attacked Joly directly, calling her rival presidential candidate a Francophobe on BFM.
I have to ask myself if Eva Joly finds anything good in France, our people, traditions, history and life morals (â¦). It's astonishing coming from a presidential candidate.
Le Pen, who took over the far-Right FN from her father in January 2010, began to rise after she distanced herself from her father's revisionist, anti-Semitic stance.
Focusing on inciting fear on the role of Islam in France, home to up to six million Muslims, she adopted anti-immigrant approach to gain public support.
Last December 2010, Le Pen compared Muslim prayers on the streets to Nazi occupation.
Currently six of the 12 national holidays in France are Catholic calendar events, with the other six having no religious connotation.
Yet, Joly was not the first one to suggest such amendment to vacations system in France.
In 2003, the then president Jacques Chirac formed the Stasi commission was charged with assessing French secularism.
The commission's led to the banning of religious symbols in schools, but it also recommended that national holidays reflect religious diversity by cutting out two of the six Christian holidays and adding two of other faiths.
We're not expecting this to happen in the near future, but we can't rule it out completely either, said Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor for Reuters in Paris.
It was, after all, the Stasi commission that originally proposed this in 2003.