The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has accused the New York Times of painting an "unacceptable" picture of his country.
Published on the BBC September 6, 2016
The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has accused the New York Times of painting an "unacceptable" picture of his country with an article about discrimination against Muslim women.
The report was prompted by the debate over controversial bans on Islamic swimsuits in many French Riviera towns.
Mr Valls said such bans were part of a "fight for the freedom of women".
The paper said it stood by the article. Some Muslims say they are being targeted unfairly over burkinis.
An increasing number of court rulings have rejected bans on the full-body swimsuit, including in Nice, where an attack on 14 July killed 84 people during Bastille Day celebrations.
Some of the women quoted by the NYT said the clothing was a chance for them to take part in activities, such as going to the beach, in line with their religious beliefs.
Many also complained of an alleged discrimination by non-Muslims exacerbated by the recent attacks in France and Belgium, and of restrictions in wearing the headscarf, banned in French public buildings.
One said: "French Muslim women would be justified to request asylum in the United States... given how many persecutions we are subjected to."
Another talked of being "afraid of having to wear a yellow crescent on my clothes one day, like the Star of David for Jews not so long ago".
'A chauvinist order'
In his response, originally posted on the Huffington Post's French website, Mr Valls said the report painted "an unacceptable picture, because it is false, of France".
"What I argue here vigorously is that the New York Times article, giving the floor to women of Muslim faith, claims that their voice would be smothered in France, so as to portray a France that oppresses them," he said.
"We are fighting for the freedom of women who should not have to live under the yoke of a chauvinist order. The female body is neither pure nor impure; it is the female body. It does not need to be hidden to protect against some kind of temptation.
"See the unbelievable reversal: in the cited accounts, the burkini is presented as a tool of women's liberation!"... Read more