FLORENCE - Controversy has gripped a planned conference on the future of the European Union over the participation of prominent Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan, with two French ministers boycotting the event.
I don't usually give in to people whose views I don't share, Bruno le Maire of France's opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party told Le Monde newspaper.
I fight them instead.
A conference is planned to open Wednesday, May 8, in Florence, Italy, to discuss the future of the European Union.
Organized by the European University Institute and in partnership with Le Monde and British daily The Financial Times, the annual meeting brings together politicians and intellectuals from across Europe.
Leading among attendees are Ramadan, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Italian economist Mario Monti and Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.
But French interior minister Manuel Valls and women's rights minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, rejected the presence of the Muslim intellectual and withdrew from the event over his participation.
Stephan Albrechtskirchinger of the European University Institute described the ministers' withdrawal as regrettable, according to France 24.
He said that the Muslim intellectual had irrefutable academic credits as a professor of contemporary Islam at Oxford University.
Professor Ramadan is widely considered to be the leading commentator today on Islam and its role in the West.
He is active at both the academic and grassroots level, lecturing extensively throughout the world on theology, ethics, social justice, ecology and interfaith, as well as, intercultural dialogue.
An author of 20 books and 700 articles on Islam, he was named by Time magazine as one of 100 innovators of the 21st century for his work on creating an independent European Islam.
His reputation in British and American academic circles is one of a moderate expert on Muslim affairs.Ramadan was a vocal critic of French policies against its Muslim minority of six million, particularly under former president Nicolas Sarkozy.