FRENCH women have launched a fightback to reclaim areas of the country turned into no go zones by Muslim men as a shocking report lays bare the state of social segregation caused by mass migration.
La Brigade des Mères, which is aiming to restore gender equality in France’s troubled ‘banlieues’, says women in many communities are now too scared to go out because gangs of young men rule the streets.
And a shocking undercover report, compiled by the TV channel France 2, shows how women are not welcome in bars and cafes in Muslim majority areas, with many men openly hostile to their presence in public at all.
Pascale Boistard, the women’s rights minister, declared: “There are now areas in our country where women can no longer go.”
The disturbing revelations come at a politically sensitive time for France, which will hold presidential elections in March in which far-right leader Marine Le Pen is expected to perform well.
Attitudes towards immigration have hardened in the country following the devastating terror attacks in Paris and Nice, with the Front National poised to capitalise on people’s fears about the erosion of French identity.
Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the niece of party leader Marine, immediately pounced on the reports as evidence that the Republic’s fiercely guarded secularism is being supplanted by Sharia law.
For the report two brave women from La Brigade des Mères wore button-hole cameras and headed alone into the Muslim majority Paris suburb of Sevran, which was at the centre of the French capital’s 2005 race riots.
Nadia Remand and Aliza Sayah visited the streets and cafes of the notorious banlieue to build up a picture of how welcome women were in its public spaces.
As soon as they entered one bar, which was filled entirely with young men, the owner approached them and asked what they were doing there, and if they were waiting for a man.
When the women said that they were, he advised them: “It’s better to wait outside. There are men in here.”
When the pair countered that it was perfectly normal for women and men to be in a bar together another young man spotted them, and shouted incredulously: “There are men in here!”
The women then asked him why he thought their presence was unusual, suggesting that he would perhaps go out for a coffee with a female friend or cousin, to which he replied: “My cousin stays at home.”
He continued: “In this cafe there is no mixing. You are in Sevran, you’re not in Paris. It’s a different mentality.”
The man insisted the Paris suburb was like the “bled” – A French slang term for a person’s home country which is frequently used by Muslim migrants from north Africa.
Following the exchange the two women said that the government’s decision to bring in imams to quell the religious tensions which led to the 2005 riots had led to a more hardline version of Islam taking hold.
In Lyon, France’s second biggest city, the report unearthed evidence that women are now actively altering their dress to avoid being threatened or abused by Muslim men.
One young woman told the broadcaster that she does everything she can to not be noticed, including wearing baggy trousers and avoiding wearing skirts and makeup.
When asked why, she replied: “Because I’m afraid, as simple as that.”
But other women in the southern city are fighting back to reclaim neighbourhoods before they are turned into no go zones.
The Collectif des Femmes – a local women’s group – regularly organises marches to streets and cafes which are only frequented by young Muslim men.
Brigitte Desmet, one of the leaders of the movement, said that the protests are not designed to attack Muslims, but rather to encourage them to participate in French society and not cut themselves off.
But in a video response to the report, Ms Maréchal-Le Pen said was evidence that some parts of the country are “no longer the land of France, because Islamic law has taken hold”.
She said: “It is no longer the law of France that applies, it is not the law of the Republic, we are witnessing the establishment of mini Caliphates where it’s Islamic law, Sharia, that applies every day.
“I believe that these revelations show the fractures that are dividing the French population, with these types of people who have French nationality but with whom we do not share very much at all.
“We don’t walk the same streets, we don’t have the same ancestors, we don’t have the same history, the same culture, the same law, the same way of life.
“The problem of radical Islam today is evidently the problem of immigration and of the division of communities.”