Excerpt:

PRESIDENT SARKOZY: Perhaps I could just say a few words on this. First of all, I thought that President Obama's speech was a remarkable speech. We have long been awaiting to hear the United States of America, the world's number one power, shouldering its full share of responsibility in avoiding the clash of cultures and civilizations between East and West. And I totally agree with what President Obama said, including on headscarves and veils.

But let me simply say two things. In France, any young girl, any girl who wishes to wear a veil or a headscarf may do so, it's her free choice to do so. We simply set two limits because we are a secular state; that is that civil servants who are actually on duty must not have -- must not show any sign of their religious belief, be they Jewish, Orthodox, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, you name it. That's what we call a totally impartial, secular administration. In other words, when on duty at the actual counters where they work, there must be no visible sign of whatever religion they belong to. Secondly, the fact that young girls may choose to wear a veil or a headscarf is not a problem as long as they have actually chosen to do so, as opposed to this being imposed upon them, be it by their families or by their environment.

In a country like France, where everyone can live according to their convictions and beliefs, we respect the individual, we respect women, we respect the family. I've also done a lot when I was home secretary, minister of the interior, to ensure that the Muslim community in France could practice their religion and their creed like any other -- any other religion or creed in France.


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