Muslim in multiple marriages row
A Muslim husband at the centre of a row in France over multiple marriages has defended himself by claiming that keeping mistresses was the French way of life.
Algerian-born Lies Hebbadj came into the public spotlight after his wife was fined for driving with a veil covering her face.
Her case drew nationwide attention last week amid moves by President Nicholas Sarkozy to bring in a legal ban on Islamic veils. But it soon emerged that her husband may have four wives.
Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said he wanted to revoke Mr Hebbadj's French citizenship if he is found to be practising polygamy. The man is also suspected of profiting from state subsidies for single women provided to each of the wives.
But Mr Hebbadj said: "If we are stripped of nationality, for having mistresses there would be a lot of French people stripped of nationality. As far as I know, mistresses are not forbidden, neither in France, nor in Islam."
He did not specify whether he lives under the same roof with the various women in his life, although neighbours say he moves between several houses.
Mr Hebbadj, whose robed image has been flashed around France by TV, runs a recently opened halal butcher shop.
Authorities are looking into whether he was married to four women in French civil ceremonies, which would be highly unlikely. If he was married in religious ceremonies by imams in Algeria or in France, the unions would not count as marriages under French law.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Francois Fillon met Muslim leaders and the justice minister to lay the groundwork for an eventual law banning Islamic veils.
Belgium also plans a full ban and was expected to be the first EU country to institute one, until the collapse last week of the Belgian government. That legislation is on hold.