Manuel Valls rejects New York Times account of anti-Muslim ‘apartheid’

French prime minister lashes out at “intolerable” New York Times article

French prime minister Manuel Valls: “France maintains strong ties with Islam. She is proud that Islam is the second religion of the country.” Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

French prime minister Manuel Valls: “France maintains strong ties with Islam. She is proud that Islam is the second religion of the country.” Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

 

France’s prime minister Manuel Valls has reacted strongly to an article published by the New York Times on September 2nd, in which French Muslim women complained of discrimination.

The article “paints an intolerable picture, because it is false, of France, the country of the Enlightenment and liberties,” Mr Valls retorted in an opinion piece published online by the Huffington Post France.

“What I contest with the greatest vigour is that the journalist gave the floor to women of the Muslim faith, claiming that their voices are somehow muzzled, to portray France as a country that oppresses them,” Mr Valls wrote.

The prime minister, who is a fervent defender of laicité , or state-enforced secularism, objected to testimony “describing a France where the next stage would be a ‘yellow crescent’ sewn on to Muslim clothing, like the yellow star that designated Jews under the Nazi occupation. A France where Muslims would be ‘considered lower than dogs’. A France with an apartheid regime that forces Muslims to leave their country to study, find employment or pursue a career.”

Mr Valls wrote that “France maintains strong ties with Islam. She is proud that Islam is the second religion of the country.”

Burkini controversy

Regarding this summer’s controversy over the banning by more than 30 French towns of the burkini on public beaches, Mr Valls said: “The burkini is not an ordinary bathing suit. It is a provocation by radical Islam which is on the rise and which wants to impose itself in the public sphere.”

On August 26th, the council of state reversed a ban on the burkini in Villeneuve-Loubet, in the Alpes-Maritimes department. Mr Valls, however, said the burkini debate was not over. 

Yesterday, a court in Bastia, Corsica, ignored the council of state’s ruling when it upheld a burkini ban in Sisco, where  Moroccan immigrants fought local villagers in mid-August, on the grounds of public order.

Mr Valls linked the New York Times article to a “de-colonial summer camp” near Reims from which “people with white skin” were banned in late August.

The New York Times responded to the prime minister’s accusations, saying, “Our story was rigorously reported and based on responses by more than 1,200 readers to an online call-out in English, French and Arabic asking for the views of Muslim women in Europe after the burkini ban. We stand by the article.”