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Frankrike er i ferd med å lansere en kampanje for «nasjonal stolthet» for å bekjempe islamsk fundamentalisme. Tiltakene i kampanjen inkluderer blant annet at samtlige barn skal få undervisning i Frankrikes kristne historie og avsynging av nasjonalsangen minst en gang i året.

Innvandringsminister Eric Besson pådro seg mishag fra etniske minoriteter og den sosialistiske opposisjonen da han redegjorde for myndighetenes planlagte kampanjetiltak og la til at han vil at «utlendinger skal snakke bedre fransk».

He called for all recent arrivals to be monitored by ‘Republican godfathers’, charged with helping immigrants to integrate better.

His proposed measures contrast sharply with the situation in Britain where ‘citizenship education’ centres on multicultural diversity.

M Besson, who was born in the former French protectorate of Morocco, suggested a debate on national identity’ entitled ‘What does it mean to be French?’

He also reignited the debate about face and body-covering Muslim veils, saying they should definitely be banned.

As well as providing civic lessons for adults – including classes about the country’s Christian history and liberal political institutions – the government will encourage school children to sing the national anthem at least once a year.

His proposed measures contrast sharply with the situation in Britain where ‘citizenship education’ centres on multicultural diversity and the European Union, while ‘God Save The Queen’ is not even taught in schools.

In an interview broadcast on national TV, Mr Besson said : ‘It’s necessary to reaffirm the values of national identity and the pride of being French.

‘I think, for example, that it would be good for all young French people to have the chance to sing The Marseillaise at least once a year.’

Besson gjorde det samtidig klart at radikal islam er en trussel, men at nasjonalstaten og republikken forblir den sterkeste bastionen mot fundamentalistiske tendenser:

Making clear that radical Islam was a threat, Mr Besson said: ‘In France, the nation and the republic remain the strongest ramparts against … fundamentalist tendencies. France is diversity, and France is unity.’

Mr Besson defended a decision to send illegal Afghan immigrants – all of them Muslim – back to Kabul on charter flights organised in conjunction with the British government last week, saying there would be many more.

More than 21,000 people have been deported from France this year – with 27,000 the ultimate target, said Mr Besson.

He also reignited the debate about face and body-covering Muslim veils, saying they should definitely be banned.

‘For me, there should be no burqas on the street,’ said Mr Besson. ‘The burqa is against national values – an affront to women’s rights and equality.’

Explaining the apparent shift to the extreme right by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, Mr Besson evoked the legacy of Jean Marie Le Pen’s anti-immigration National Front party, which is struggling massively with huge debts and low electoral support.

Mr Besson said: ‘We should never have abandoned to the National Front a number of values which are part of the Republic’s heritage. I think that the political death of the National Front would be the best news for all of us.’

But Mohammed Moussaoui, a prominent French Muslim leader, said debates like the one about the burqa were stigmatizing the country’s entire Muslim community, which at some five million is the largest in western Europe.

Daily Mail: France to launch national pride campaign in battle against Islamic fundamentalism