.- While French public schools are battling to implement a new ban on all religious symbols, the former finance minister is lobbying to amend a law and allow state subsidies for religious groups, reported The Associated Press. Nicolas Sarkozy, who heads President Jacques Chirac’s conservative Union for a Popular Movement Party, is leading a campaign to modify the 1905 law that led to the full secularization of the country.
Sarkozy, who is considering running for president in 2007, wants to give France’s five million Muslims funds to build mosques. He believes that bringing Islam out into the open would help Western Europe’s largest Islamic community integrate into French society, reported the AP. It would also discourage extremism from flourishing among believers now meeting underground, he argues.
Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin disagree with Sarkozy’s proposal, saying there is no reason to change the law that has served well as a cornerstone of modern French society.