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Bat. Photo credit: Vlad Kutepov

Fired for likening Islamic female garb to a ‘bat’

A French Socialist party assistant privately described a veiled female from a polling station in Saint-Denis as a “bat” because of the way she was dressed.

Published: August 31, 2021, 10:03 am

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    The beginning of the controversy dates back to June 20. A little over two months later, the municipality of Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis) finally cracked down on this politically incorrect statement. Frédéric Bonnot, chief of staff to the far-left Socialist mayor Mathieu Hanotin, will be officially dismissed from his post on August 31, reported French daily Le Parisien.

    Bonnot will therefore no longer be the right arm of the far-left councilor, according to Le Parisien on Saturday, August 28. The chief of staff was replaced at the Saint-Denis town hall. The reason for Frédéric Bonnot’s dismissal was that he had compared an Islamic veiled woman to a “bat” on June 20, 2021.

    On this day the first round of regional and departmental elections in France had taken place. In Saint-Denis, the number two of the National Rally, Jordan Bardella, had voted by placing his ballot in the ballot box in front of a Muslim veiled assessor. Visuals that captured the moment had then aroused strong reactions and mockery on social networks from the left in general. It was even shared on a private WhatsApp group, of which Frédéric Bonnot had been part, Le Parisien reported. Bonnet had commented: “On top of that, it’s a bat that makes him [Bardella] vote”, followed by a laughing emoji.

    His disrespectful message was soon leaked and Frédéric Bonnot quickly apologized. “I made the mistake of using an extremely inappropriate qualifier about this woman.” Despite his apology, he was given a three-day layoff from the mayor in July. A protest was then organized on July 8 in front of the town hall of Saint-Denis to challenge this decision deemed too light.

    To keep his job, the mayor had to give in to the pressure from Muslims. Three Muslim deputies had submitted their resignation and left the majority group, the town hall had stated in a press release.

    Among them was Brahim Chikhi who denounced the “omerta” in the face of this type of behavior of the ethnic French within the local executive. “I am extremely shocked. Me as the son of a ‘bat’, I find that hurtful […]. However, this chief of staff was not sanctioned, there was no recall. There is a kind of omerta, everyone was aware of it, but nobody dared to talk about it, but for me there is no place in Saint-Denis if we have this kind of humor,” Chichi told France Bleu.

    Republicans saw the veiled voting assistant as a direct attack on institutional secularism in France, but leftists mocked them for stating that. The mayor of Saint-Denis was however forced to clarify the situation, recalling that nothing prevents a voting assistant from being veiled in a polling station. Only the president of the office is in fact bound by religious neutrality, as a representative of the State.

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