France’s far-right leader and former presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen has called for a ban on wearing Muslim veils and Jewish skullcaps in public, leading to fears of an increase in religious tensions sparked by cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
In an interview with French daily Le Monde, the former presidential hopeful said she would ban religious headgear “in stores, on public transport and on the streets,” as well as banning Halal and Kosher foods from schools.
She accused the past and present French governments of being far too lax with political and religious fundamental groups, saying that the country should restore law and order around housing projects, to “gain the upper hand.”
President Francois Hollande denounced Le Pen’s comments, saying "Everything that tears people apart, opposes them and divides them is inappropriate and we must apply the rules, the only rules that we know – the rules of the Republic and secularism."
Muslims in France were outraged after satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo put a new print run of the cartoons featuring a naked Mohammed on newsstands.
The drawings have added fuel to the fire over an anti-Islam film made in California that has provoked violent protests in dozens of Muslim countries, including attacks on US and other Western embassies, the killing of the US envoy to Libya and a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
As a precaution, French embassies, schools and cultural centers in some 20 Muslim countries were closed on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer.
The government has also banned any form of protests by activist groups, and police were on high alert in the capital, Paris.