- Published on Sunday, 10 June 2012 18:16
- Written by BC & Agencies
The Right-wing mayor of Nice has been accused of "stigmatising" the southern French town's Muslim population after passing a decree on "noisy" town hall weddings, in particular cheering, whistling and foreign flag-waving, which he says disturb the peace.
Since June 1, Mayor Christian Estrosi, who belongs to the UMP party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, has outlawed "whistling", deploying "flags, notably foreign ones", the presence of "unauthorised" folk music groups, illegal parking around the town hall or holding up traffic to "dance" or "parade with banners or flags".
He said such behaviour was "liable to disturb the peace and solemnity of the moment" and could create "unfair delays in the proper running of weddings". Any wedding parties failing to abide by the new rules could see their ceremony delayed by up to 24 hours.
Opposition Socialists and rights groups have blasted the measure as a veiled attack against French Muslims whose traditional ululations are a frequent fixture at wedding ceremonies in France. They claim it is blatant anti-immigrant electioneering ahead of this month's parliamentary elections in a staunchly Right-wing town where the far-Right National Front commands strong support.
Last Saturday, they organised a protest "silent wedding" ceremony in front of the town hall in which a false bride, groom and wedding party brandished banners saying: "Silence, we're getting married", their mouths taped shut to drive home the message.
Mr. Estrosi, running for his fourth parliamentary term, condemned the "Socialist parody", telling Nice Matin newspaper his aim was "not to stop guests from displaying their joy but to remind them of the elementary rules of decency".
Auguste Verola, deputy mayor in charge of civil ceremonies, said that despite the decree, and accompanying charter, people could still "clap, shout and ululate".
"The problem is with those who go over the top. What we ask is to have no ear-splitting music," he told Le Monde newspaper, adding that he had received letters from Right and Left-wing mayors around France inquiring about the new rules.
But Abderrazak Fetnan, Socialist municipal councillor, said the new measures were "dirty bombs ahead of the elections".
Marouane Bouloudhnine, a centrist parliamentary candidate in the southeastern Alpes-Maritime department, said: "Christian Estrosi knows how to make advances to Muslims when he needs them and slam them when elections approach, when they are of no use to him." "This has nothing to do with the elections," said Mr. Verola. Lucien Samak, vice-president of Nice's Jewish consistory, said he thought the measures were not aimed at "one community more than another.
"The problem posed is one of consideration and respect one has for others," he said.