‘Less equal civilizations’: French Minister stirs xenophobic controversy

Claude Guéant (AFP Photo / Patrick Kovarik)
France is outraged with new cultural standards hammered out by French Interior Minister Claude Gueant, who insists that all civilizations “are not of equal value” - and that France needs protection from the inferior ones.

­“Contrary to what the left's relativist ideology says, for us all civilizations are not of equal value,” the French Interior Minister said on Saturday as quoted by Agence France-Presse.

Gueant never used the word “Muslim,” but the record of his immigration comments, as well as the picture he drew of an inferior civilization, left little room for deliberation.

Those that defend liberty, equality and fraternity, seem to us superior to those that accept tyranny, the subservience of women, and social and ethnic hatred,” he said.

Gueant also stressed the need to “protect our civilization.

On Sunday, Gueant said he still stood by his remarks, but accused critics of taking his words out of context.

The Interior Minister provoked a new wave of criticism from the opposition and in the public. And with less than three months left before France's next presidential election, Gueant’s patron President Nicolas Sarkozy may try to create some distance between himself and the Interior Ministry. His party has already labeled the standards as symptomatic of “electoral and moral decline.

The Young Socialist Movement dubbed the words “racist,” while the French Green Party wrote of the “return to three centuries ago.”

Gueant’s office tried to dismiss his comments as a mere slam in the face of advocates of repression and inequality.  

But the French Interior Minister seems to have little faith in multiculturalism, in which modern Europe has been finding its pride. Gueant has repeatedly linked immigration with crime in France, and has proposed putting caps on the number of immigrants entering France, including those coming to work legally or to join their families.

Still, some believe it may be just a stunt to drag votes from presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen, the leader of the anti-immigration National Front. Le Pen came out with 15 percent support in the latest opinion polls. Sarkozy needs Le Pen’s electorate to shift to his side as he is losing almost ten percent to the current favorite of the race, Socialist Francois Hollande.