French far-right leader Marine Le Pen called Friday for a ban on the wearing of Muslim veils and Jewish skullcaps in public, adding to religious tensions sparked by cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, AFP reports.
Speaking in an interview with the newspaper Le Monde, Le Pen called for religious headwear to be banned "in stores, on public transport and on the streets."
Asked whether the ban should apply to the Jewish skullcap, known as the kippah or yarmulke, as well as Muslim headwear, Le Pen said, “It is obvious that if the veil is banned, the kippah is banned in public as well.”
Le Pen, who won almost 18 percent in the first round of this year's presidential vote, also repeated calls for bans on public prayers, kosher and halal foods in schools and foreign government financing of mosques in France.
France outlawed the wearing of a niqab (full face veil) -- part of the burqa, or full body covering worn by Muslim women -- in public in April 2011, the first European nation to do so. French authorities cited security concerns as the reason for the ban.
Last December, a similar was passed in Canada, also requiring Muslim women to remove their face veils if they wish to become Canadian citizens. The woman's face must be visible during the ceremony conferring Canadian citizenship on her, and for the woman to face the judge administering the oath of citizenship.
Italy, Australia and numerous other nations are also considering similar legislation. France has enforced the ban on the "niqab" and has not allowed Muslim women into the country if they refuse to take off a face veil upon request.
President Francois Hollande denounced Le Pen’s comments, saying, according to AFP, “Everything that tears people apart, opposes them and divides them is inappropriate, and we must apply the rules, the only rules that we know, the rules of the Republic and secularism.”
Jean-Francois Cope, who leads the right-wing UMP party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, said Le Pen showed little understanding of France's much-vaunted secular traditions.
“Marine Le Pen wants to ban any signs of religion on the street, starting with the veil and the kippah,” AFP quoted him as having said. “By doing this, she shows she understands nothing of secularism. Secularism is not the eradication of all religious expressions in society.”
Richard Prasquier, who heads France's main Jewish council CRIF, told AFP the statement showed there were "secular fanatics just as there are religious fanatics.
"Obviously, I am hostile to both," he said.
The main Muslim council CFCM accused Le Pen of wanting to "set up a totalitarian regime in France.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)