You don't need to be following the frothing mess that is France's burkini ban—and the recent suspension of said ban—to know that tensions between France's sizable Muslim population and the secularist majority is at an all-time high. In a society where being "French" is espoused over one's heritage and cultural individuality, it's a sad eventuality that minorities can and likely will run into vitriolic opposition.
As it turns out, even the high-end restaurants of cosmopolitan Paris aren't exempt from this conflict, as evidenced by the actions of a Parisian restaurateur named Jean-Baptiste Devreux, according to RFI radio. Devreux, who is the chef and owner of the Michelin-selected Le Cénacle in the Parisian suburb of Tremblay-en-France, has been accused of bigotry and Islamophobia after he was caught on camera refusing service to two veiled Muslim women and telling them that "all Muslims are terrorists."
The video, which was posted online by one of the two women, depicts a man telling the headscarf-wearing customers the following: "The terrorists are Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists… They recently killed a priest. This is a secular country and I have a right to an opinion… I don't want people like you here. Full stop." In turn, the audibly distraught women tell the man that they "do not wish to be served by a racist," to which Devreux replies: "Racists like me don't plant bombs and don't kill people." The ordeal ends with the man telling the women to "get out" and being told "don't worry, we're leaving."
Le chef du restaurant Le Cénacle à Tremblay-en-France refuse de servir 2 femmes musulmanes
Jusqu'ici tout va bien
— GuedGued (@_Pourquoi)
August 28, 2016
Le Parisien reports that Devreux has since been interviewed by local authorities on suspicion of enacting racial discrimination. The Local adds that Devreux and his family have left their home for security reasons. The day after the incident, which took place this past Saturday, members of the local Muslim community gathered outside of Le Cénacle to confront Devreux and said, "You are surrounded by Muslims. If all Muslims were terrorists would you be alive right now?" The Committee Against Islamophobia in France also issued a statement supporting the two women and pledging to provide them with "emotional and legal support."
Devreux has since told local media: "I spoke out of turn and I apologize. I have a friend who died in the Bataclan attacks and wrongly mixed everything up. I do not truly believe the things I said, my comments did not reflect what I really think."
Amid growing tensions throughout France, and with right-wing politicians pledging to pass new burkini-ban legislation, the minister for Families and Women's Rights, Laurence Rossignol, has stated that she has asked the intergovernmental Dilcra—which is tasked with investigation matters of racism—to look into the incident.
From the beach to a restaurant, it's a damn sad day when innocent people are alienated, ridiculed, and chased away just because of their religious identity.