France's justice minister in karaoke row

2014-05-12 20:54
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Paris - France's black justice minister faced calls to resign on Monday for refusing to take part in what she called "karaoke" by singing the national anthem at a weekend event commemorating the abolition of slavery.

The centre-right main opposition UMP roundly criticised Christine Taubira for refusing to sing the Marseillaise while the far-right National Front party demanded that she quit her post.

After critics posted remarks on her Facebook page concerning the event at Paris's Luxembourg gardens, Taubira hit back saying: "Some events are more a time for reflection than onstage karaoke."

Her comments immediately drew outrage from the opposition.

"What is most shocking is that she could justify herself not singing the national anthem by speaking of stage karaoke," said UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope.

"She is a minister. There are certain things one does not say, that one does not have the right to say, and I think I am among millions of French people who are deeply shocked," he said.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen said: "By comparing 'La Marseillaise' to 'onstage karaoke,' and refusing to sing it, Christiane Taubira has revealed her true colours, and those of the administration."

"This unacceptable gaffe is indeed symbolic proof of the highest order of their contempt for France, for its history and its people, who love to sing their anthem, and are proud of it."

Karim Benzema

A willingness to not sing the Marseillaise has led the far right to attack other public figures.

The National Front called for the exclusion of footballer Karim Benzema from France's national squad after he said: "I cannot be forced to sing the Marseillaise."

Real Madrid striker Benzema was born in France to parents of Algerian descent.

Taubira, the most prominent black person in French public life, is a regular target for France's right-wing opposition, partly as a result of her having been the main government architect of last year's legislation to legalise gay marriage, and partly because she is seen as being soft on crime.

The hostility towards her has, at times, spilled over into overt racial abuse with the minister having been the subject to a string of 'banana' slurs over the last year.

Le Pen and UMP leaders have distanced themselves from these attacks but commentators have interpreted them as a sign of taboos on the expression of such abuse becoming less powerful in French society.

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