A far-right magazine has sparked a firestorm of controversy by describing France's new education minister as a "Moroccan Muslim at the head of national education" and calling the appointment of the 36-year-old rising star a "provocation".
Moroccan-born Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is the first woman in French history to hold the office of education minister.
It is the latest step in a brilliant and so-far unstoppable career for the telegenic protégée of President François Hollande.
But far-right magazine Minute splashed a picture of her on the cover of its latest issue that hit newsstands on Wednesday with the caption: "A Moroccan Muslim heads the national education (ministry). The Najat Vallaud-Belkacem provocation."
It is not the first time the magazine has sparked outrage.
Earlier this year, it featured a cover picture of France's black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira and headlines which read: "Crafty as a monkey" and "Taubira gets her banana back."
In French, getting your banana back is roughly the equivalent of recovering the spring in your step.
Another far-right publication, “Valeurs Actuelles” (Modern Values) had the supposed front page of its Thursday edition leaked on Wednesday, including a picture of Vallaud-Belkacem above the words “The Ayatollah – an inquiry into the minister for re-education”.
‘Racism is not an opinion, but a crime’
The head of the ruling Socialist Party, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, called for Minute magazine to be sued, calling it an “incitement to hatred”.
Meanwhile, the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism described the cover as "shameful" and said those "spreading hate" had to be stopped.
Vallaud-Belkacem herself, who already found herself targeted by the far-right when she was minister for womens' rights, spoke out Wednesday against “Minute”.
“I call for respect ... And I repeat in particular that racism is not an opinion, but a crime,” she told the Associated Press.
Vallaud-Belkacem was born in the Moroccan countryside but grew up in the suburbs of the northern city of Amiens before heading to Paris to study.
She holds dual French and Moroccan nationality and has described herself as a "pure product of the Republic," an example of "happy integration" in a country which is home to the largest Muslim population in Europe.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)
Date created : 2014-09-03