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16th Jun 2019

EU has limits in respecting Muslim traditions, says Frattini

  • Europe should stand up for free speech, believes Mr Frattini (Photo: European Commission)

The vice-president of the European Commission Franco Frattini has said Europe can only respect Muslim traditions if they do not contradict the bloc's own basic values, such as freedom of speech or equality between men and women.

"We are not governed by sharia, after all," he said in an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica published on Monday (9 October).

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Mr Frattini, in charge of the justice and security portfolio, has among commissioners been the most outspoken critic of the recent reaction in the Muslim world to a speech by Pope Benedict XVI suggesting links between Islam and violence.

Referring to the controversy, Mr Frattini told La Repubblica that both European political and cultural leaders and moderate Muslim authorities should have condemned threats to the pope after his speech.

"If we ourselves do not maintain our strong identity, if we are not sure about our principles - how can we manage integrating with others?" he asked.

"We can guarantee respect of traditions of the Muslim community only if these are not in contrast with our core rules, even if they are unwritten."

He suggested that a similar silence by the European elite during the pope controversy was the same one that occurred some time later when Italy was shocked by cases of Muslim girls being locked at home or being killed by their own families.

"These - equality between a man and woman and the liberty of expression - are the pillars of European society which are not to be touched upon," noted Mr Frattini.

Asked about suggestions in some EU countries that veils should be banned or at least removed from faces at public places - as recently advocated by UK minister Jack Straw - the commissioner pointed out "on this issue, I would like to hear the position of Islamic women."

"I would like to hear those Muslim women who do feel above all as European. I believe there are a lot of them who, for example, consider themselves first Italian and then Islamic. It is these women I want to hear speaking. Otherwise, how can we speak of integration if we want to segregate women?" added the Italian commissioner.

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