“If this debate must be focused on Islam and if it seems to lead to the stigmatisation of Muslims, I oppose it. I say it clearly: I oppose it,” Fillon told French radio station RTL.
“But if the debate aims to reinforce the concept of secularism, to adapt French secularism to new circumstances, yes, I think it is a useful debate, but only under those circumstances.”
The president of the ruling UMP party, Jean-François Copé, recently announced plans to launch a debate about religion, “especially Islam”.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared on 10 February that multiculturalism was a failure in France. He called for “an Islam of France and not an Islam in France”.
The question of the financing of places of prayer is “a question which should be asked and should not be taboo”, Fillon said, adding that the question of the education of imams is also “on the table” and has not yet been properly dealt with.
In 2009, the government launched a debate on national identity, which was judged a failure and quickly buried. There are between five and six million Muslims in France, the biggest Muslim population in Europe.