The Socialist candidate has spoken out in support of France's strict secularism laws
Speaking during the final Socialist primary debate, the left-wing presidential hopeful defended France’s strict brand of secularism, which he said gave Muslim women the “choice to believe or not to believe” in God.
Mr Valls added that it was his duty to help young Muslim women free themselves from the clutches of Islamic fundamentalists.
The former prime minister said: “We must protect Muslims who are being pressured by radical Islamists to adhere to a strict form of Islam.
“Extremists are trying to impose their own Sharia-based ordinances and have no respect for France’s secular laws. They are jeopardising women’s role in society.”
The left-wing candidate added that the full-face Islamic veil was “more than just a religious symbol” and that the burka ban had not “further stigmatised Muslim women”.
The debate, he said, should not focus on the so-called ‘dark side’ of laïcité, but on what the government can do to help empower Muslim women.
Burqa bans across Europe
Thu, December 22, 2016
Several European countries have banned full-face veils since France's controversial law in 2011
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France: Became first country in Europe to ban the burka in April 2011, with a penalty fine of 150 euro
Mr Valls likened forcing women to wear the veil to slavery
He said: “The world needs to know that our strict secular laws were, in part, adopted to help protect enslaved women from the wrath of their zealous husbands.
We need to prove that Islam and secularism are completely compatible
“We need to prove that Islam and secularism are completely compatible. But there can be no compromise with radical Islam.”
His opponent, ideologist Benoît Hamon, a former education minister under François Hollande, strongly disagreed and said that Muslim women should be free to wear the burka in public.
He said: “If a Muslim woman chooses to wear the Islamic veil, then it is her right and we should not stop her from doing so.
The left-wing hopeful argued that the French government to be doing more to empower Muslim women
“But if she is forced to wear the veil against her wishes, then it is our duty to protect her.
“Everyone – including Muslims – has the right to freedom of thought, conscious and religion.”
But the two rivals did agree that the burkini – a full-body Islamic swimsuit – should be banned in France.