The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, has objected sharply to an article published last week in the New York Times, that sought comment from French Muslim women about the persecution they claim to endure in the current climate. The article, which sought accounts from numerous women, was produced in light of the controversy over the full-body ‘burqini’ swimsuit.
Manuel Valls wrote, in an opinion piece for The Huffington Post (translated here into English), that the article’s representation of France was “false.” He also asserted that the Times’ reporting was narrowly based on a single event, in which minorities gathered at a ‘De-Colonial Summer Camp’ to discuss their experiences of discrimination.
The Times refuted this, 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.”
Valls said he did not accept the argument by French Muslim women that the burqini allowed them to participate in summer activities, calling the swimwear “not an anodyne bathing outfit, but a provocation.”
“We must have open eyes to the growing influence of Salafism, which contends that women are inferior and impure and that they must be sidelined,” he wrote. “This was the question, absolutely not anecdotal, that was at the center of the debate around the burqini and the burqa. It is not an insignificant bathing suit. It is a provocation of radical Islam, which is emerging and wants to impose itself in the public space!”
“We are fighting for the freedom of women who should not have to live under the yoke of a chauvinist order. The female body is neither pure nor impure; it is the female body. It does not need to be hidden to protect against some kind of temptation.”