French minister: There is no such thing as moderate Islam

A French minister said there was no such thing as moderate Islam, calling recent election successes by Islamic parties in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia “worrying” in an interview published Saturday.

Jeannette Bougrab, a junior minister with responsibility for youth, told Le Parisien newspaper that legislation based on Islamic sharia law “inevitably” imposed restrictions on rights and freedoms.

Bougrab is of Algerian origin, whose father fought on the French colonial side during Algeria’s war of independence, and said she was speaking as “a French woman of Arab origin.”

“It’s very worrying,” she was quoted as saying. “I don’t know of any moderate Islam.”

She was reacting to electoral successes scored by the Ennahda party in Tunisia, the Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

And she hit out at the 30% of Tunisians living in France who had voted for Ennahda in last month’s polls. “I am shocked that those who have rights and freedoms here gave their votes to a religious party,” she said.

AFP, 3 December 2011

Update:  What Bougrab in fact said was “I don’t know of any moderate Islamism” (“Je ne connais pas d’islamisme modéré”). But that hasn’t let her off the hook. According to Le Parisien, a spokesperson for prime minister François Fillon has accused Bougrab of jeopardising French foreign policy, even going so far as to accuse her of committing an act of treason.

Islamist parties have already won a plurality of the votes in elections in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, and are likely to do well when elections are held in Libya or in Syria after the fall of Assad. The French government is clearly worried that Bougrab’s public attack on the idea of moderate Islamism is going to screw up France’s relations with whole range of countries in North Africa and the Middle East.