First Published: 2007-05-18

 
North African woman named France’s justice minister
 

Dati sees herself as proof it's possible in France to overcome poverty, discrimination through hard work.

 

Middle East Online

By Emma Charlton – PARIS

Sarkozy sends powerful message to France's five million Muslims

President Nicolas Sarkozy sent out a powerful message to France's five million Muslims on Friday by appointing a woman of North African origin to the key post of justice minister.

Rachida Dati, a 41-year-old newcomer to government who shot to national attention as Sarkozy's election campaign spokeswoman, is the first French Muslim politician to hold a top government job.

Her appointment breaks important new ground in a country where north and west African immigrants and their children are severely under-represented in public life -- an imbalance seen as one of the reasons behind the 2005 riots.

Tall and impeccably turned out, Dati grew up on a public housing estate in the western French city of Chalon sur Saone, the daughter of a Moroccan labourer and an illiterate Algerian mother.

The second of 12 children, she worked her way through her studies as a nursing assistant, earning a raft of degrees in law, economics and business.

Dati worked as a magistrate and an accountant, carrying out public and private sector audits, before becoming Sarkozy's advisor on delinquency in 2002 -- using fierce determination to break through to the right-winger's inner circle.

"I wanted to work with him, so I wrote to him. No answer. I wrote again. Still no answer. But since I really, really really wanted this, I wrote to him again. That time, he wrote back," she said at the time.

"For him, I am not just a token Arab. I have a real advisor's role," she said.

Dati sees herself as living proof that it is possible in French society to overcome poverty and discrimination through hard work.

"We need to stop seeing people of immigrant background as either problems or victims," she once said.

"It's not always easy for us to climb the social ladder. But the Republic makes success possible. Public examinations are the same for everyone."

Dati does not see herself as a spokeswoman for France's troubled suburbs -- and has often been at loggerheads with community groups in the suburbs critical of Sarkozy's tough line on immigration and law and order.

As justice minister, she would be in charge of rolling out Sarkozy's planned reform of criminal law, that would toughen sentences for young offenders, including from the suburbs.

But Dati has also repeatedly defended Sarkozy against charges of racism sparked by his tough campaign talk on controlling immigration and defending French identity.

She also supports Sarkozy's call for some form of affirmative action, based on socio-economic rather than ethnic grounds.

But there is strong resistance in France to US-style affirmative action, with critics saying it would undermine the Republican principle of equal citizenship regardless of race or religion.

The riots two years ago in high-immigration French suburbs cast the spotlight on ethnic discrimination in the job market and public life, but there have been few signs of radical change.

There are currently 10 black deputies in the 577-seat lower house National Assembly, all from French overseas territories in the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean.

Among the 555 elected in mainland France, none are black or of Muslim North African origin.

 

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign

ICC investigating several war crimes in Mali

Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border at any moment

Tunisian couple jailed for 'public indecency' over car kiss

Next round of Syria talks at end October

Gazans hope Palestinian reconciliation ends their woes

PSG's Khelaifi to be quizzed in Swiss World Cup probe

UN urges de-escalation in Iraq

Haley: Iran must be judged in totality of its aggressive behaviour

EU says Israeli settlements illegal under international law

Kurdish independence goes from dream to dust

Female commander more than just poster girl for Raqa victory

Saudi airline flies to Baghdad for first time in 27 years

Wanted Dead: France's approach to IS jihadists