French Muslim grocery store open for gender-specific days

A grocery store in Bordeaux has caused a furor among local residents after the store’s owners, who are newly converted to Islam, reserved gender-specific days for its customers to make sure that men’s and women’s paths never cross.

The “De L’Orient à L’Occidental” grocery in Bordeaux has put a sign on its front door saying that “sisters” can only shop during the weekend, while “brothers” are welcome at the store twice as often – on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé has condemned the initiative, calling it “unacceptable,” and saying it “totally contradicts the republic’s rules of equality and diversity.”

The mayor has called on the authorities to “address this issue in order to stop such discriminatory practices and implement measures, which the law provides in such circumstances,” LePoint.fr reported. Discrimination cases can see penalties of up to three years in prison and fines of up to €45,000.

The head of French equality group ACSE, Naima Charai, wrote on Twitter that gender-related opening hours are “unimaginable and unacceptable,” adding that “respect for the republic” is supposed to be 24/7.

The grand imam of Bordeaux, Tareq Oubrou, appeared to be among those who slammed gender-related opening hours at the “De L’Orient à L’Occidental” grocery store.

“We never saw that at the time of the Prophet! The markets were mixed,” Oubrou told France 3 Aquitaine, adding that the practice of gender-specific days for customers “seemed a bit odd in a world where diversity is an established culture.”

According to the imam, it was more like the owners’ “psychological than theological choice.”

The owner of the business, Jean-Baptiste Michalon, has defended his move, telling French newspaper Sud Ouest that he “didn’t know it was forbidden” by law. “It was for a savvy public that knows that our practice of [Muslim] religion does not allow the mix.”

“It’s not an obligation, everyone does what he wants,” said Michalon, a recent convert Islam who has taken the name Yahya.