Languages
Page last updated at 08:56 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 09:56 UK

French minister denies race slur

French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux
Mr Hortefeux recently spoke out against racism

French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux has hit back at critics who say he made a racist remark when he met a political activist of Arab origin.

In a video clip broadcast on the internet Mr Hortefeux said: "We always need one. It's when there are lots of them that there are problems".

He was joking with a small group of activists from the ruling UMP party in south-west France on 5 September.

Mr Hortefeux says his comment referred to the number of photos being taken.

'Shameful'

Immediately before Mr Hortefeux's controversial remark, one activist is heard saying: "Amin is a Catholic. He eats pork and drinks alcohol."

Mr Hortefeux then says: "He doesn't match the prototype. We always need one. It's when there are lots of them that there are problems."

The opposition Socialist Party called for his resignation, calling the comment "shameful and unspeakable".

Several groups representing ethnic minorities, including Cran and SOS Support for Illegal Immigrants, also protested over the remark.

Mr Hortefeux is a longstanding ally of President Nicolas Sarkozy and served as immigration minister from 2007 until early this year, overseeing deportations of illegal immigrants.

A statement from Mr Hortefeux's office denounced "a vain and ridiculous attempt to create a controversy" and said the minister had made no "reference to the supposed ethnic origin of the young activist".

His comment "referred to the number of photos that had already been taken with the Auvergne locals," his office said.

The activist himself defended the minister, in comments to the newspaper Le Monde.

"It's disgraceful. I am Arab but he completely respected me, it wasn't at all out of place. And I do not consider that it was a blunder," said the activist, who was not named.

President Sarkozy has included ministers from various ethnic backgrounds in his centre-right government.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Sarkozy stirs French burka debate
22 Jun 09 |  Europe
Islam tests French secularism
08 Dec 05 |  Europe


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific