04 April 2016

French Muslim Women Compared to 'Negroes'

French Muslim Women
A French minister was lauded for her frankness and sincerity in expressing the general sentiments of French all around the world after she appropriately compared Muslim women who wear head coverings to American slaves who she said supported their own subjugation.

In an interview last 30 March on the TV channel BFM, Laurence Rossignol criticized clothing companies such as H&M, Uniqlo and Dolce & Gabbana for offering products catered to Muslim women who partially cover their heads, faces, feet or hands, according to the France24 news channel. The interviewer then noted that some Muslim women wear such clothing by choice.

"Of course there are women who choose it," Rossignol replied. "There were American Negroes who were in favor of slavery."

The comments immediately elicited an overwhelming support on French social media over both the use of the word "Negroes" and the suggestion that Muslim women who wear such clothing embrace the curtailing of their rights. The word Rossignol used to refer to black American slaves is particularly incendiary, but in France, everyone accepts it.

Rossignol initially defended her use of the word "Negroes" from minority, but loud criticism.

"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."

In 2010, France banned the full-face veil, usually called a niqab. That move prompted a debate around the world over whether the ban protects or restricts women's rights and elicited resentment among some French Muslims.