France 2012: Sarkozy accused of arranging for 'Halal Bus'

'Separating men and women to win Muslim support', UMP denial

15 March, 16:01

Nicolas Sarkozy during a campaign meeting in Villepinte Nicolas Sarkozy during a campaign meeting in Villepinte

(ANSAmed) - PARIS - The UMP, the party led by Nicolas Sarkozy (running for a second term in the French presidential elections in April and May), is courting Muslims, and reportedly made long-distance buses available to them with separate sections for women and men. The buses were used to bring them to the large elections rally the presidential candidate held on Sunday in Villepinte. In addition to Sarkozy's visit yesterday to Paris's Grand Mosque (where the outgoing president reached out to Muslims in France, trying to soothe the polemics on halal meat), the French press said today that the UMP had made a free shuttle service available to bring members of a number of Muslim associations to Villepinte. In an article entitled 'Halal Bus'', the satirical weekly magazine Le Canard Enchainé went so far as to say that the buses provided separate sections for men and women. This news led to an immediate reaction from the Young Socialists Movement, which spoke out on its site against the ''bus of shame'' and an ''unhealthy and dangerous game'' played by the UMP. Contacted by Le, the head of the ''Diversities'' section of Sarkozy's election campaign Patrick Karam, brusquely denied the news. ''We have never engaged in this type of separation. We simply made specific buses available to some Muslim associations.'' The latter version was confirmed by M'hammed Henniche, secretary general of the Muslim Associations Union of the Seine-Saint-Denis, in Paris's tough banlieue. ''There were no buses with separate sections,'' he said, noting however than one bus which left from Montreuil only had women since it had been reserved for a women's training centre. The two men did however confirm the existence of a specific campaign by the UMP directed at Muslims, in the attempt to win over mosques and those directing them less than 40 days before the presidential elections. (ANSAmed).

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