A junior French minister has told young Muslims living in France they should dress properly, find a job and stop speaking slang.
Opposition politicians from the left denounced the comments by the minister for families, Nadine Morano, as racist.
The highly outspoken Morano, who is a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s inner circle, made the remarks on Monday evening in a small town in eastern France during a government-inspired debate on national identity.
“We are not putting young Muslims on trial. I respect their situation. What I want is for them to feel French because they are French,” she said in a recording played on French radio.
“I want them to love France when they live here, to find work and not to speak in slang,” she said, adding: “They shouldn’t put their caps on back to front.”
Anti-racism groups and Socialist politicians accused Morano of stoking racial tensions and said the government should abandon its series of highly controversial national identity debates before they provoked a violent backlash.
Sarkozy’s government has tightly linked the issues of immigration and integration and launched the national identity debate last month, playing on a theme that had served Sarkozy well during his successful 2007 election campaign.
Critics say the countrywide discussions will simply open a Pandora’s box of prejudice and extremism.