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Veil row: Minister accused of ‘helping Isis recruiters’

France's women's rights minister faced growing criticism on Thursday, including calls on social media to resign, after comparing women who wear the Muslim headscarf and veil to "negroes who supported slavery".

Veil row: Minister accused of 'helping Isis recruiters'
Photo: AFP

An online petition that collected nearly 18,000 signatures within hours urged Prime Minister Manuel Valls to punish Laurence Rossignol, while a leading French Muslim group accused her of aiding the Islamic State group.

It was as if she had “set out to help the recruiters of Daesh”, said Abdallah Zekri, president of the National Observatory against Islamophobia, using a pejorative Arabic term for IS.

The minister had “stigmatised” thousands of women, he added, and “spat in the face of the (secular) laws of the Republic by trying to interfere with the way women dressed.”

The row was also trending on Twitter across France with a hashtag #RossignolDemission (#RossignolResign) demanding that she step down.

The League of French Muslim Women also condemned her comments, calling them “dangerous and irresponsible” and reminding her that women who wear the veil and headscarf were the main victims of racist attacks in the street.

“It is all the more surprising because the government has just launched an (advertising) campaign against racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” the league's statement added. 

Rossignol, who is also minister of family and child matters, tried to row back on the comments made during a radio interview Wednesday.

She told AFP the n-word was a reference to an abolitionist tract by the French philosopher Montesquieu, “On the Enslavement of Negroes”.

Her controversial remarks came as she was asked about the wave of big fashion chains that have followed the Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana in catering specifically to the Muslim market, creating lines of hajib headscarves and “burqini” all-body swimming costumes.

The gaff was also pounced on by satirists. Comedian Olivier Perrin joked that she would make a good campaign director for US presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who has drawn fire for his comments about women and Muslims.

Perrin had earlier posted a picture on Twitter of a hooded Ku Klux Klan member giving the Nazi salute with the caption, “Laurence Rossignol wishes you a good day.”

The cartoonist of Le Monde daily, Plantu, also came in for criticism on social media for his take on the row, showing two headscarved women asking when they could get designer explosives belts.

 

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ISLAM

Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

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