“(President Emmanuel) Macron has tried to project the image of a forward-looking, inclusive leader. This is a blot on that image and highlights the pressing need in France for an open debate on racism,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial.
Rokhaya Diallo was sacked earlier this month from the National Digital Council (CNNum), prompting almost all its members to resign in protest from the body that advises the government on preparing for a digital future.
The 39-year-old writer has been an outspoken critic on issues such as police stop-and-searches of young black and Arab men and France's ban on full-face veils, and has described France as “institutionally racist”.
Digital Minister Mounir Mahjoubi — himself a rare non-white face in the cabinet, who led the CNNum before quitting to join Macron's presidential campaign — said Diallo had to go because the controversy over her views had become a distraction.
For her critics on both the left and the right, her defence of the Islamic veil as a “mark of femininity” in staunchly secular France made her inappropriate for a government position – as did her repeated criticism of France as rife with discrimination.
The New York Times noted that Diallo’s claim that France is “institutionally racist” was “seen by many as an affront to the colorblind ideal of a universalist French republic.”
It said her removal from the digital council “exposed a hypocrisy at the heart of French nationalism.”