A Muslim-owned grocery shop in France caused outrage after putting into place male and female-only shopping days for customers.
A sign outside the De L'Orient à L'Occidental (From East to West) store, in the south-western French wine capital of Bordeaux, specified that women were only welcome into the shop on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesday and Fridays.
Men, however, were kindly asked to take their custom elsewhere on the weekends.
The shop’s owner, Jean-Baptiste Michelon – who is a recent convert to Islam –staunchly defended his decision by saying it was a way to respect Muslim demands that unrelated men and women not cross paths.
Speaking with the French news channel, BFM-TV, Mr Michelon said he put the rules into place “for practicing Muslims” and added: “A man doesn’t want to find himself alone with a woman. A woman who comes to buy books here doesn’t want to find herself alone with a man – especially, out of respect, if she is married.
“I don’t think her husband would accept such things.”
Mr Michelon may have, however, come to regret making the move after he incurred the fury of Bordeaux’s mayor, Alain Juppé, who called for authorities to intervene to “put a stop to such discriminatory practices” that could lead to “criminal charges”, five years in prison and fines of up to €75,000 (£54,000).
The mayor added that he “firmly condemns behaviour that is totally contradictory to the rules of the French Republic’s rules on equality and [gender] mixing.”
The deputy mayor of Bordeaux, Marik Fethou – who is also in charge of equality – said in a newspaper interview: “This is the first time we’ve seen something like this in Bordeaux.
“It’s problematic because it creates a bad image for the Muslim community who actually abide by 99 per cent of the laws of France.”
As the controversy escalated over the weekend, and early this week, the shop-owner decided to take the sign down and told local news: “I thought it was more practical. But I didn’t expect all of this.
“People have told me it’s discriminatory and I don’t want to be an outlaw.”Reuse content