PARIS (JTA) — The Green Party candidate for the French presidency has called for national holidays on Yom Kippur and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Green Party leader Eva Joly said in a speech Wednesday that she wanted, "Jews and Muslims to be able to celebrate Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha during a day off," so that "every religion is treated equally in the public space."
Though national holidays are customary for Christian celebrations, the call made waves in France, where religion is expected to be kept private in a strictly secular society intended to be blind to race and religion.
"That is one way to look at secularism," quipped the French daily Le Figaro in its regular news coverage of the story. Reader on-line reactions also expressed shock at the idea, and political opponents on the right and left defended the country’s Christian-only holidays out of an "old tradition."
In a similar vein, Joly, who is Norwegian and French, said she was in favor of the controversial use of national statistics showing standards of living for different ethnic groups. The French government by law cannot conduct surveys on groups identified by their religion or ethnicity.
However, such surveys are, "a useful instrument to permit equal access to employment, health, housing, even political responsibility," argued Joly.
"We have a Christian history, that led to a certain number of holidays in our calendar," said Education Minister Laurent Wauquiez on French BFM TV. "That doesn’t prevent having the greatest respect for all religions," he added.