When newly elected French President François Hollande appointed Najat Vallaud-Belkacem minister for women’s rights and official government spokesperson last May, French Muslims had high hopes that the Morocco-born official would bring about a change in the government’s attitude towards Muslim women in the country.
However, Muslim women in France were in for a letdown, the Guardian reported Monday.
Six million Muslims living in the country felt vilified by Nicolas Sarkozy’s “burqa ban” and were hoping that Vallaud-Belkacem would work to reverse it.
“Since the ban came in we have experienced unpleasant attention from the police, but it is the hatred which comes from other people that makes it worse,” Salima Kader, a 38-year-old mother-of-three told the paper. “They think the ban is official authorization to insult, spit at and even physically assault. The ban has become a symbol of hate against all Muslim communities.”
However, Vallaud-Belkacem chose to focus on other issues like ending prostitution instead of introducing more realistic measures that would be seen more favorably by citizens who hail from a similar background to hers such as building mosques or women-only swimming sessions in public pools.
A poll by French paper le Fegaro suggests that an overwhelming majority of Muslims voted for Hollande’s socialist party, including some traditional Muslim women who wanted an end to the state’s intrusive policies like the burqa ban.
“The Socialists could get rid of the burqa ban with the stroke of a pen. They have a huge majority in Parliament,” said Sonia Choukri, a 23-year-old student from Marseille.