The French Minister for Family, Children and Women’s Rights compared Muslim women wearing veils to the brutality of American slavery, in an interview Wednesday with the French channel BFM.
Laurence Rossignol was interviewed about major clothing brands creating designer veils for Muslim women. In recent years, name brands like H&M, Uniqlo and Dolce & Gabbana have begun creating clothing and catering to the under-served Muslim women community.
When the interviewer commented about Muslim women choosing to wear veils, Rossignol responded:
“Of course there are women who choose it (the veil) … There were American Negroes who were in favor of slavery,” said Rossignol.
Thursday, the French Minister faced a slew of media backlash from French and global news outlets. The outrage over her comments had her initially back-pedaling, but today she tried to justify comments with this explanation:
“The word negro is a pejorative word that is now only used in order to evoke slavery in reference to the abolitionist work of Montesquieu, ‘On the Enslavement of Negroes,’ ” she told BuzzFeed France, referring to the Enlightenment philosopher. “There is thus no provocation on my part, nor any desire to shock. It’s a word that I would not use in any other circumstance. I underestimated that the reference was not clear.”
The explanation was not good enough for many Twitter users, who thought the minister’s comments were bigoted and inflammatory. In the aftermath of the interview, a Change.org petition has been circulating the web calling for her resignation and/or firing from her position.
"women who choose [hijab]" like "negroes…in favor of slavery" French minister for women's rights @laurossignol
Time for a new job perhaps?
— Shireen Al-Adeimi (@shireen818) March 31, 2016
— IslamophobiaWatchAU (@islamophobiaAUS) March 31, 2016
Petition asking 4 sanctions vs. French Min. who compared veiled Muslim women to "US negroes who approved slavery" https://t.co/dKq5zGuoCK
— HAJER NAILI (@H_NAILI) March 30, 2016
What is France's obsession with the headscarf. It's quite simple, leave it up to women to decide & stop politicising it. #LaurenceRossignol
— Nomad (@Nomad_LDN) March 30, 2016
— Musab (@musab_ys) March 30, 2016
In recent years, the far-right political party The National Front has gained political steam by promoting Islamophobia in France, according to BBC. The party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, is a member of the European Parliament and has become a national force after the November 2015 Paris terror attacks. Le Pen has been blamed for the country’s adversity toward Muslim immigrants, even though the country has been dealing with bigotry for longer periods of time before her.