Several days before the vote for the UMP presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy mentioned “one of his favorite themes,” that is, “integration the French way.” According to Sarkozy, it is the “biggest failure in thirty years.” He quickly elaborated on this statement, saying, “It is not a question of our fellow Muslims, most of whom bring honor to France.” He added, “The question, is not only to ask what the Republic can do for Islam, but what Islam can do for France.”
The next day, after being questioned by activists about his views on diversity, he discussed Rachida Dati’s appointment as Minister of Justice. “I said to myself that Rachida Dati, with an Algerian father and Moroccan mother, to talk about penal policy, that made sense,” he added.
While several were quick to question his decision, many believe it he chose Dati because of the large North African population in prison. Sarkozy’s entourage defended his decision and said that Dati’s appointment sent an important signal to immigrants.
“When you always speak of origins and skin color in a certain way, you divide citizens into different categories, and it’s not my vision of things,” says Francois Bayrou concerning Sarkozy’s statement.
This article in the the Guardian profiles Rachida Dati (b. 1965), former French justice minister, which she stepped down from in May 2009. She has come under scrutiny for her fashion sense and as a single mother of Algerian-origin. She was the second of 12 children born to north African immigrant parents, neither of whom could read or write, and yet by the time she was 41, she occupied one of the most senior roles in government as President Sarkozy’s justice minister, the first woman of Arab descent to be given a key ministerial position in the French cabinet. At 44, she is now a single mother to a one-year-old daughter, a member of the European parliament and the mayor of the 7th arrondissement in Paris. Dati believes the criticism she faces springs from class resentment more than anything else.
Dati is unequivocal in her support for banning the burka in public institutions, an issue currently being debated in France. “When you are part of a society, the first foundation of this social contract is trust,” she says. “To be totally hidden, to not show one’s face, is a challenge to that trust and one cannot construct a society without trust in each other… [the burka] does not correspond to our values.”
With a compelling character, political talent and outspoken criticism of President Nicolas Sarkozy, Human Rights Minister Ramatoulaye Yade is emerging as France’s most popular political figure. She had never run for political office until chosen by Sarkozy as a spokesperson for his presidential campaign. Yade was appointed as France’s first-ever minister for human rights in May 2007. Her father is a Senegalese diplomat and politician. Despite her Muslim faith, she was educated at a Catholic school. Some warn that like Rachida Dati, the other high-profile “minority” minister, her popularity may wane quickly.
A French couple who accepted a court annulment of their marriage when the woman admitted she was not a virgin on their wedding day are upset with the state’s appeal of their case. Led by Rachida Dati, the Justice Ministry has requested that state prosecutors file an appeal against the ruling annulling the marriage of the Muslim couple in Lille. While the verdict was given in April, public furor over the case has emerged only in the last two weeks when the groom complained his bride was not a virgin, as she had promised prior to their marriage. The April ruling did not mention the couple’s religious beliefs. Dati was booed in the parliament last week for insisting that while the annulment should go before an appeal court that the ruling was legally sound.
148 Muslim tombs were desecrated with anti-Islamic and insults against Rachida Dati in the military cemetery of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette in the Pas-de-Calais in Northern France. Numerous French officials, including Nicolas Sarkozy, Fran_ois Fillon, Rachida Dati and Mich_le Alliot-Marie have pronounced their condemnation of the act. The incident took place almost exactly a year after 52 other tombs were covered with Nazi inscriptions. Two young people, aged 18 and 21, were condemned to 2 years in prison for the previous vandalism; another minor of 16 years received 7 months in prison.
Arab and Muslim candidates fared poorly in the first round of French municipal elections, with only one elected to a local office and few others with opportunity in the second round of voting. Running on the Socialist slate, Samia Ghali won District 8 in Marseille, the country’s second largest city. Ghali became the first Muslim among France’s 36 000 municipal leaders. Justice minister Rachida Dati, of Moroccan origin, faces stiff challenge from her Socialist rival in the 7th District of Paris. Other candidates, Socialist Karim Bougoma and Razi Hamadi of the Rassemblement Pour R_publique have little to no chance of winning a seat, winning only 26.11 and 17.63 of the votes in the first round. In the country more generally, president Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) conceded more ground to the rival Socialists.
CAIRO – French Justice Minister Rachida Dati is facing a smear campaign by right-wing media and “jealous” politicians, who cannot swallow a Muslim woman of poor ethnic background holding such a prestigious post, Britain’s Times reported on Tuesday, July 17. “Rachida Dati is paying for being an outsider, because she is young, a woman and of North African origin,” said Dominique Sopo, the Socialist President of the SOS Racisme organization. He said Dati, as an “atypical” minister, has sparked “resentment” among the “republican aristocracy.” Dati, 41, has become in no time one of the most popular politicians in France with six books on her life and battle against adversity being rushed into print.
Today, President Sarkozy appointed his former spokeswoman Rachida Dati as the new Minister of Justice. Ms. Dati is from a Moroccan Algerian family with twelve children. She was Sarkozy’s spokeswoman during the Sarkozy’s election campaign. When questioned about her future role in the integration question with the Minister of the Interior, she cast Sarkozy as someone distinct from the Right. Here, she said, Arabs are not alone in seeing to their needs. Nicolas, she added, embodies best the refusal to let one’s birth determine their future. Minister Dati, at age 41, is the youngest high ranking official since John Hume. She will be taking over the position from Pascal Clement, criticized for his lack of political weight and unwillingness to work the system. Her lack of political experience may be an asset since she will not be bound by a pre-established reputation.