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Africa

Far right targets France’s Moroccan-born education minister in ‘racist’ hate campaign

media Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (R) with Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who has also been attacked by the far right Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

France’s new education minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, has become a victim of a right-wing hate campaign. The front pages of two far-right magazines have attacked her for her Moroccan origins, while anti-gay marriage campaigners accuse her of spreading “gender theory” in the nation’s schools.

Vallaud-Belkacem’s Socialist colleagues were outraged on Thursday when the Valeurs actuelles weekly dubbed the education minister “the ayatollah”, while the cover of the equally right-wing Minute, declared the appointment of a “Moroccan Muslim” a “provocation”.

Vallaud-Belkacem was born in Morocco but raised in northern France and has dual nationality.

"The front page of Minute is an incitement to hatred. It should be taken to
court," stormed Socialist Party First Secretary Jean-Christophe Cambadelis.

Anti-racist group, Licra, called the Minute cover “shameful”, while SOS-racisme, which has close links to the ruling Socialist Party, invited people to sign a petition against “racist attacks” on the minister.

Earlier this year Minute targeted Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who is of West Indian origin, with covers widely judged to be racist.

Vallaud-Belkacem’s appointment has angered some on right, both because of her origins and because she was an prominent supporter of the legalisation of gay marriage:

  • A photograph of primary school children posted on the education ministry’s Facebook page at the weekend attracted hundreds of racist comments – and anti-racist responses - because six out of eight of the kids were black;
  • A photo of a fake identity card purporting to show that Vallaud-Belkacem’s real name is the very French Claudine Dupont has circulated on social networks, along with claims that she changed it to advance her career in the Socialist Party;
  • The town of Puteaux, controlled by the mainstream-right UMP, distributed blue satchels to boys and pink ones to girls returning to school this week in opposition to the government’s efforts to promote equality between the sexes;
  • The anti-gay marriage campaign Manif pour tous dubbed Vallaud-Belkacem’s appointment a provocation, claiming the equality drive is inspired by “gender theory” that supposedly teaches that gender differences are socially created and calling for support for an anti-government demonstration on 5 October;
  • UMP MP and former education minister Luc Chatel invited her to “clear up certain ambiguities”, notably about “gender theory”, when her appointment was announced.

Vallaud-Belkacem faced her first challenge as minister on Wednesday as about 15 local councils were reported to have refused to open schools in a gesture of non-compliance with changes to school attendance instituted by the minister-before-last Vincent Peillon.
 

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