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French Muslim shopowner fined for sexist opening hours

"Sisters on Saturdays and Sundays only." A Muslim shopkeeper's sexist opening hours falls foul of the law in France.

French Muslim shopowner fined for sexist opening hours

A Muslim shopkeeper has been fined €500 ($560) for ordering different opening hours for men and women at his store in the French city of Bordeaux, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Jean-Baptiste Michalon, the owner of a general store and who converted to Islam in 2012, created an uproar when he pasted a notice outside the shop in June 2015 indicating different shopping hours for men and women.

“Sisters” were invited to shop on Saturdays and Sundays only, while “brothers” were told they could shop on week days.

Michalon quickly abandoned the plan faced with a swell of negative reaction, and his shop has since closed its doors.

“We put this in place at the request of the sisters who preferred when my wife was behind the counter. It is a shop where we sell clothes,” Michalon told AFP at the time.

Michalon's lawyer Tristram Heliot told AFP that the shop owner “admitted it was a blunder and tactless”.

Politicians slammed the move, as did Bordeaux's chief Imam Tareq Oubrou.

“We never saw this during the time of the Prophet. Markets were mixed. It seems a bit strange to me in a world where social mixing is an established culture,” he said.

Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé called out on Twitter for “an end to such a discriminatory practice”.
 
Naima Charai, the head of French equality group ACSE, tweeted her disdain too, saying that gendered opening hours are “unimaginable and unacceptable”.
 
“Respect for the republic should be seven days a week,” she wrote. 
 
Marik Fetouh, the deputy mayor of Bordeaux tasked with equality, told French newspaper 20 Minutes that the shop was not in line with typical practices for Muslims in the region.
 
“This is the first time we've seen something like this in Bordeaux,” he said.
 
“It's problematic because it creates a bad image for the Muslim community, who actually abide by 99 percent of the laws of France.”

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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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