The French minister for women's rights was heavily criticised on Thursday, with calls on social media urging her to resign, following a comparison she made comparing women who wear the Muslim headscarf and veil to "negroes who supported slavery".
An online petition urged Prime Minister Manuel Valls to punish Laurence Rossignol and collected nearly 18,000 signatures in just hours, while a prominent French Muslim group accused her of feeding into the agenda of militant group Daesh.
The comments were described as appearing to be "set out to help the recruiters of Daesh", said Abdallah Zekri, president of the National Observatory against Islamophobia.
Rossignol "stigmatised" thousands of women, he added, and "spat in the face of the (secular) laws of the Republic by trying to interfere with the way women dressed."
Users of Twitter across France also expressed their outrage with a trending hashtag #RossignolDemission (#RossignolResign) demanding that the minister quit.
The League of French Muslim Women condemned her comments, describing them as "dangerous and irresponsible". The group added that women who wear the veil and headscarf were the main victims of racist attacks in the street and suffer from discrimination.
"It is all the more surprising because the government has just launched an (advertising) campaign against racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia," the league's statement added.
Rossignol, who is also minister of family and child matters, attempted to backtrack on her comments during a radio interview Wednesday.
She told AFP that she used the n-word in reference to an abolitionist tract by the French philosopher Montesquieu, "On the Enslavement of Negroes".
The controversial and inflammatory statement was made when Rossignol was asked about the move of big fashion chains that have followed the Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana in creating lines of hijab headscarves and "burqini" all-body swimming costumes in order to cater to the Muslim market.
Comedian Olivier Perrin suggested as a joke that Rossignol should work as campaign director for US presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who regularly makes offensive comments about women and Muslims. Perrin also posted a picture on Twitter of a hooded Ku Klux Klan member giving the Nazi salute with the caption, "Laurence Rossignol wishes you a good day."
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