Fury as French restaurant 'refuses to serve Muslim customers' because 'all Muslims are terrorists'
In the latest instance of intercultural tensions in France, a restaurant owner in the Paris suburb of Tremblay-en-France is facing an investigation after chasing two veiled Muslim women out of his premises on Saturday.
His actions, caught on video, provoked a furious response and prompted prosecutors to open an inquiry into racial discrimination.
The incident, filmed by one of the two women and posted online, shows the other saying: "We don't want to be served by racists."
The restaurateur responds: "Racists like me don't plant bombs and don't kill people."
He added that "terrorists are Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists. I don't want people like you in my place. Now you know it you can get out."
The boss of Le Cenacle restaurant later apologised for his actions as calls to boycott his establishment flooded social media sites alongside negative reviews.
Things "got out of hand," the restaurant owner said to a group of men that confronted him over the incident, due to the current tensions around the burkini debate, but also because he had a friend who had died at the Bataclan attack last November.
A source close to the investigation said that the proprietor had left his home along with his family for security reasons.
Mayors of 28 French towns are maintaining bans that prohibit wearing full-body swimsuits, known as burkinis, in defiance of a ruling by France’s highest administrative court, in a move that is "likely to create antagonism and irreparable tension" according to interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
Rightwing figures are pushing for a nationwide ban to be written into law, led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy who this week launched his bid to regain the presidency in next year's election.
"As the prime minister has said, the government refuses to legislate on the matter because any such law would be unconstitutional, ineffective and likely to create antagonism and irreparable tension", Mr Cazeneuve said.
"However, Muslims must continue to engage with us over gender equality, the inviolable nature of the principles of the French Republic, and tolerance in order to live together," he said, noting that in overruling the ban, the court had "stated the law".
The interior minister lashed out at the opposition for trying to earn political points from the burkini controversy at a time when the country has been rattled by a string of deadly attacks claimed by Islamic State militants.
"Certain opposition leaders are making a lot of noise. They think that in the current context of terror threats, we can abandon the fundamental principles of law as embodied in the Constitution," he said, warning that such a move would be "a serious mistake."