16 June 2016, The Tablet

Sarkozy affirms country’s Christian roots

France’s former leader Nicolas Sarkozy has highlighted the country’s Christian roots as a rallying point in his planned political comeback, indicating issues of faith and identity should become campaign issues for next year’s presidential election, writes Tom Heneghan.

The still undeclared but already hyperactive conservative candidate told a meeting of his Republicans party that France is “a country of churches, of cathedrals, of monasteries and crosses … a Christian country in its culture and customs”.

Sarkozy, president from 2007 to 2012, said “bad jokes against the Church don’t make me laugh” but defended the caricaturing of religion, be it Catholicism or Islam. “If you live in France, you respect this because that is our identity,” he said. He did not mention last year’s massacre of Charlie Hebdo journalists by radical Muslims, but did call for “rules for a new French Islam”.

Left-wing Prime Minister Manuel Valls also stressed identity as a key topic for 2017. “There is a very profound questioning in France about the ... place of Islam,” he told the daily Libération. “We have to help French Muslims win this cultural battle ... with Islamist ideology that wants to rule their social and political life.”

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