Nicolas Sarkozy has demanded that all immigrants residing in France must ‘live like the French’ and speak the language.
The former French president, who wants to return to the top job in 2017, declared war on Islamist terrorism and said women should ditch the ‘medieval’ burkini.
Speaking at a public meeting in the northern Paris suburb of Franconville on Tuesday, he said immigrants granted citizenship in France must integrate with the community.
‘If you want to become French, you speak French, you live like the French. We will no longer settle for integration that does not work, we will require assimilation,’ he said.
‘Once you become French, your ancestors are the Gauls. ‘I love France, I learned the history of France, I see myself as French’,’ is what you must say.’
He denounced the ‘tyranny of minorities’ and said in France the only community that matters is the French community.
‘If we say we can no longer continue with immigration (…) then it is racist. It’s unbearable,’ he said.
‘I want to be the voice of the silent majority,’ Mr Sarkozy added to applause.
The presidential hopeful promised to lead a ‘merciless war’ on Islamist terrorism in response to the deadly Nice and Paris terror attacks.
‘I will be the president of action, I do not accept the 238’ victims of attacks in France since January 2015, he added.
‘I will not accept the medieval behaviour that wants men to swim in swimsuits while the women are locked up’ in burkinis.
Mayors in around 30 towns this summer cited France’s century-old secular laws in banning head-to-toe swimwear on their beaches, unleashing a furore.
Sarkozy, who was President of France between 2007 and 2012, is running for the centre right Les Republicains party nomination.
Polls over the past few weeks have consistently shown that Mr Sarkozy is close on the heels of the frontrunner for the party nomination, ex-Prime Minister Alain Juppe.
His popularity showed no sign of taking a hit after a state prosecutor said the former leader should stand trial over funding irregularities in his failed 2012 re-election bid.
Sarkozy was accused of ‘knowingly underestimating’ elements of his campaign financing.
The prosecutor’s office recommended earlier this month that he stand trial with 13 others in the so-called Bygmalion Affair, involving spending overruns and allegedly illegal financing.
But the former French President dismissed the allegations as ‘shameful’ and said he wouldn’t be deterred from running in the presidential race.
He also came under fire last week which he said world population growth is a bigger problem than climate change.
Speaking on a late night TV talk show, he acknowledged climate change was ‘a very serious challenge’, but added: ‘The real challenge is that of demographic change.’
Sarkozy was also quoted in a weekly publication as saying ‘only man could be so arrogant to think that it is us who is changing the climate.’
His conservative rival, Mr Juppe, went on the attack after Sarkozy’s comments, saying the former leader was in denial of reality.