‘Hands off Joan of Arc’, French Catholics tell Socialist women’s minister
France’s Catholic extremists are up in arms again, this time over gutsy Women’s Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (right), who has been described as “an agent of Satan” after she was invited to speak at a ceremony commemorating the death of Joan of Arc.
The young Socialist minister, who embodies her party’s diversity pledge – she is a woman, young, foreign-born – has long been targeted by radical Catholics as a dangerous advocate of LGBT rights and marriage equality.
But her invitation to speak at a ceremony commemorating 15th century resistance fighter, Joan of Arc, has provoked a nasty outpouring of vitriol from extremist Catholics, forcing the Archbishop of Rouen to issue a semi-apology.
“We’re pinching ourselves... checking it’s not April Fools’ Day,” Catholic news website Chretiente.info stuttered on Sunday. “The Minister for Women’s Rights will speak in favour of our national heroine,” website Riposte Catholique warned. “It would be shocking for this person, who has seriously undermined the law of nature and Catholic morals, to be allowed to speak in a Catholic church. We must take action!”
In response to that call, some readers suggesting “physically barring” Vallaud-Belkacem from the church, while others called for a boycott of the event. The determined Manif Pour Tous movement, which has orchestrated massive protests against the government’s marriage equality bill over the past few months, suggested “greeting the minister as she should be, with a noisy demonstration”.
'Satanic Moroccan Muslim Socialist'
The comments are likely to cause embarrassment for the Catholic Church, which has been trying to distance itself from the increasingly radical fringes of the anti gay-marriage movement since protests became violent ahead of the law being passed.
Referring to Vallaud-Belkacem as “foreign”, “Moroccan”, “imposter” and “Muslim” (she has never spoken of her religious beliefs), some of the readers even went as far as calling her “Satanic”. Others pointed out that Vallaud-Belkacem “advocates teaching the concept of ‘gender’ in schools”.
The concept of gender?
Jesus, this woman is dangerous.
In response to the uproar, Archbishop of Rouen Jean-Charles Descubes was forced to issue a statement acknowledging that he had received hundreds of angry emails but would not be taking any action. “Of course people have the right to express themselves, but that doesn’t mean they are right,” he said.
Rouen Mayor Yvon Robert, who invited Vallaud-Belkacem to the ceremony, denounced the uproar. “I don’t understand,” he said. “This is a sign of intolerance.”
Vallaud-Belkacem, who is also the Socilaist government spokesperson, ignored her critics in an interview with BFM TV on Thursday, praising Joan of Arc as a symbol for all French people.
“The main reason I accepted to go to Rouen on Saturday is because I feel that Joan of Arc must not be monopolised by anyone,” she said. “This is a woman who confounded expectations. She belongs to all of us.”