img_3576-cheve-panoramiqueFrance’s decision to name a non-Muslim to head its Foundation for Islam, in the wake of the terrorist attack during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice this summer, was always controversial.
Since then, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a hardline secularist, has not backed away from expressing even more divisive views. He told a group of two dozen AAPA members on Nov. 7 that it was Muslims who needed to try harder to adapt to France, not vice versa. “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,” he said to foreign correspondents gathered in the auditorium of Bloomberg News.
Just weeks after his nomination, the long-time Socialist politician who served as both interior and defense minister waded directly into the latest battle over laicité this summer – the ban on the so-called burkini on some French beaches.
He repeated his stance against the full-body swimwear to the AAPA, calling it “in very bad taste of those (burkini-clad) women to go bathing two weeks after the Nice attack, 20 or 30 kilometers away.” “It was bound to cause surprise, consternation and unease in the rest of the population,” he added.
The Foundation for Islam will focus its efforts on lay matters, not those of faith. It will look at teaching foreign-born imams, celebrate Muslim culture, and search for ways to fight discrimination faced by Muslim job applicants.
The meeting with the AAPA took place just days before France gathered to mourn those killed in the terrorist attacks of Nov. 13, 2015 in Paris, and as the presidential election in France gears up.
Mr. Chevènement did not shy away from commenting on the US election either, which took place the next day. He is no fan of Donald Trump, but thinks Hillary Clinton was a bad candidate too. The American electoral college agreed on his latter point.

-Sara Miller Llana img_3579-chev-fine