This is one issue Sarkozy cannot draw a veil over

British photographer unexpectedly finds his work at the centre of France's hottest political debate

The award-winning British photographer Martin Parr is known for his laconic, amusing images of popular culture in gleaming, seaside postcard colours. Politics and polemics are not usually his territory. But now an exhibition of Parr photographs, taken and displayed in reputedly the most dangerous quarter in Paris, has become a talking point in the hottest French political debate of the moment.

Tomorrow, France's ban on the full-length veil, or niqab, takes effect. Last week President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right political party split down the middle after organising a public debate on whether Islam is compatible with the secular tradition of the French Republic. Mr Sarkozy stands accused, even within his own party, of exploiting fears of Islam to try to counter the resurrection of the far-right National Front.

Mr Parr's photographs have been hailed in the French media as a brilliant, humorous counterpoint to what Le Monde called the "simplistic political cliché" about Muslims and immigrants in France. They show in a non-sensational way one of the subjects about which political controversy rages in France. Dozens of men pray on their knees blocking an entire street, the Rue Polonceau in the Goutte d'Or, during Friday prayers. Another image shows, with classic Parr deadpan humour, men praying in the street in front of a shop marked Produits Exotiques.

Marine Le Pen, the new far-right leader whose rise in the polls has sent President Sarkozy into a moral panic, makes much of Islamic prayers in the street. She calls them a form of "occupation", equivalent to the Nazi occcupation of France. She does not mention that French Muslims only pray in the street because there are not enough mosques in France (only two for the estimated 25,000 people living in the half a square kilometre of the Goutte d'Or). In fact, Ms Le Pen says that there is no need for more mosques in France and opposes suggestions that the state should help to build them.

The Goutte d'Or may or may not be as dangerous to visit as many Parisians fear. During his week-long visit in January, Parr had to desist from taking pictures of illegal street hawkers when his camera was almost stolen. He says he rarely takes pictures in France because he finds that the French are "paranoid" about having their photographs taken. In that and other respects, he says, he found that French Muslims are "much more similar to other French people than French people are to Britons".

The free exhibition is open until 2 July, from Wednesday to Sunday at the Institut des Cultures d'Islam, 19-23 Rue Léon, 18th arrondissement, Paris

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried