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.”

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