French Women’s Rights Minister: Women Who Cover Hair Are Like ‘Negroes Who Supported Slavery’

A french minister said on Wednesday that the fashion industry's decision to advertise Muslim dress is dangerous.

Minister for the Family, Children and Women's Rights, Laurence Rossignol delivers a speech during the launching of the High Council for Equality between Women and Men (HCEfh) on International Women's Day at the Elysee Palace in Paris on March 8, 2016. / AFP / POOL / THOMAS SAMSON        (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Minister for the Family, Children and Women's Rights, Laurence Rossignol delivers a speech during the launching of the High Council for Equality between Women and Men (HCEfh) on International Women's Day at the Elysee Palace in Paris on March 8, 2016. / AFP / POOL / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Minister for the Family, Children and Women's Rights, Laurence Rossignol delivers a speech during the launching of the High Council for Equality between Women and Men (HCEfh) on International Women's Day at the Elysee Palace in Paris on March 8, 2016. / AFP / POOL / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

France’s government already has a controversial reputation for its attitude toward Muslim dress, including a nationwide ban on religious face coverings -- a law it justifies with claims the burqa and niqab violate the country’s secular traditions.

But Laurence Rossignol, the French minister for women’s rights, gave that reputation a whole new meaning Wednesday when she said in a radio interview with BFTV that she believes a recent movement in the fashion industry to normalize Muslim dress is counterproductive to women’s rights.

“When brands invest in this Islamic garment market, they are shirking their responsibilities and are promoting women’s bodies being locked up,” she said.

France’s government already has a controversial reputation for its attitude toward Muslim dress, including a nationwide ban on religious face coverings — a law it justifies with claims the burqa and niqab violate the country’s secular traditions.

But Laurence Rossignol, the French minister for women’s rights, gave that reputation a whole new meaning Wednesday when she said in a radio interview with BFTV that she believes a recent movement in the fashion industry to normalize Muslim dress is counterproductive to women’s rights.

“When brands invest in this Islamic garment market, they are shirking their responsibilities and are promoting women’s bodies being locked up,” she said.

Her comments responded to a question posed by the interviewer, who asked for her views on decisions by companies like H&M and Marks and Spencer to promote Muslim styles, including a full-body bathing suit.

When the interviewer pushed Rossignol to explain what she meant, and pointed out that many Muslim women make their own choice to cover their hair, she responded that “of course” there are women who choose for themselves, but there were also “American negroes who were in favor of slavery.”

She then defended her use of the French word “nègre,” which translates directly to “negro,” telling the French bureau of Buzzfeed News that she chose that word because she was referencing an abolitionist text by French thinker Baron de Montesquieu.

Rossignol later conceded to Agence France-Presse that her use of the word “negro” was inappropriate and that she hadn’t expected such a reaction to it.

But she didn’t apologize for her comparison of black Americans in favor of slavery to Muslim women who choose to cover their hair. “Apart from the slip of the tongue, I don’t take back a word that I said,” she said in a statement Wednesday.

Photo credit: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

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