PARIS (Christian Examiner) –French President François Hollande publicly opposed the country's burqa ban enacted five years ago and is on record as saying he believed France had room for Muslims to practice their religion alongside Christians and Jews.
Now, however, Hollande is changing his tune.
After a series of attacks by Islamic extremists – including the Paris attacks, the murder of a Catholic priest in his church, and the use of a truck to run down festival goers in Nice – Hollande is finally acknowledging France has "a problem with Islam."
The Telegraph reports Hollande's position shifted during the course of more than 60 interviews conducted for a new book.
Ultimately, what bet are we making? It is that this woman will prefer freedom to slavery, that the veil can be a form of protection for her but that tomorrow she won't need it to feel reassurance about her presence in society.
He also expressed his discontent with the rapid increase in the number of immigrants flooding into the country. Immigrants don't normally assimilate, but break from French society and form their own cloistered communities where sometimes French police will not go.
"I there think there are too many arrivals of immigration that shouldn't be there," Hollande tells authors Gérard David and Fabrice Lhomme, who have been working on the book for several years.
"The fact that there is a problem [in France] with Islam is true. Nobody doubts that," he added.
According to Hollande, Islam as a religion is not necessarily a danger for the country, but it can be a problem because it exerts force to achieve more power in France.
"It wants to assert itself as a religion inside the French Republic," Holland told David and Lhomme.
Hollande also claimed, somewhat controversially, that Muslim women who assimilate into French society and stop wearing their hijabs (headscarves) will someday be seen as a new type of hero in France, like the national icon Marianne. The female figure became a symbol of liberty and justice during the French Revolution.
"The veiled woman of today will become France's Marianne of tomorrow," Hollande said. "If we manage to provide the right conditions for her to flourish she will free herself from her veil and become French, while still remaining a believer if she wants to be, capable of carrying forth an ideal."
Hollande told the writers that he wanted to see Muslim women "free" from the veil.
"Ultimately, what bet are we making? It is that this woman will prefer freedom to slavery, that the veil can be a form of protection for her but that tomorrow she won't need it to feel reassurance about her presence in society," Hollande said.