France’s Minister for Women’s Rights has found herself in hot water after comparing Muslim women who wear their faith’s traditional garments to “American negroes” who supported slavery.
Laurence Rossignol, the government minister, made the remark during a French television interview on Wednesday. She was condemning retailers like H&M and Dolce & Gabbana for their decision to sell product lines designed for Muslim women, saying these firms were “promoting the confinement of women’s bodies,” France 24 reported.
The interviewer noted that some Muslim women in fact choose to wear articles of clothing like burqas and hijabs.
“Of course there are women who choose it,” Rossignol replied. “There were American negroes who were in favor of slavery.”
Rossignol has since expressed remorse for her choice of words, calling it an “error of language” and insisting that she would only use the word negro in the context of slavery, but otherwise she is standing by her observation. She is now the target of a social-media backlash. As of early Thursday morning, a Change.com petition demanding that Rossignol face “sanctions” for her language had received more than 15,800 signatures.