French women's rights minister embroiled in racism row

French minister Laurence Rossignol has sparked anger following comments on French TV linking veil-wearing women to slavery.

Story highlights

  • French official compares Muslim women who wear veils to "Negroes in favor of slavery," later apologizes
  • Comments on French TV sparked furious backlash
  • Online critics have launched a petition for her resignation

(CNN)A French official has sparked outrage after she compared Muslim women who wear veils to "Negroes who were in favor of slavery."

France's Families and Women's Rights minister Laurence Rossignol was speaking on French TV about the increasing number of brands, including Dolce & Gabbana and H&M, which sell collections that cater to women of Islamic faith.
    Speaking on BFTV, Rossignol called designers irresponsible for producing garments such as abayas and hijabs because "such outfits reveal the imprisonment of the female body."
    Abayas are ankle-length robes and a hijab is a tightly worn scarf that covers the head and neck but not the face. It is the most common Islamic head covering.
    Rossignol made the statement about the veils after the interviewer pointed out that some women choose to wear them.
    Veils remain a controversial topic in France. The country banned certain kinds of Muslim veils for security reasons in 2011. The law ignited an intense debate around a woman's right to wear a veil and critics argued it was discriminatory. The issue was brought before the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in favor of the ban in 2014.
    Rossignol said: "It cannot be normal that a brand invests in this market and, in the end, puts Muslim women in a situation where they are forced to wear those (items).
    "We say fashion brands praise the skinny image with anorexic models, which is dangerous for the health of young women. We can as well say those same brands, with such Islamic collections, give an image of women that is dangerous for the rights and freedom of Muslim women in France."