BORDEAUX: A grocery store owned by Muslims in French wine capital Bordeaux has set aside male and female specific days for its customers, much to the fury of locals and authorities.
The store, called L'Orient à L'Occidental (From East to West), specified that women were only welcome on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while men were asked to shop elsewhere on weekends.
The store owners are newly-converted Muslims who said they wanted to ensure that women and men don’t meet.
The store’s co-owner Jean-Baptiste Michelon explained: “It’s really for practising Muslims. A man doesn’t want to find himself alone with a woman. A woman who comes to buy books here doesn’t want to find herself alone with a man, especially out of respect if she is married."
“I don’t think her husband would accept such things,” he told the media, adding that the rule did not apply to non-Muslims.
Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé called for authorities to intervene to “put a stop to such discriminatory practices” that could lead to “criminal charges”, while the deputy mayor of Bordeaux Marik Fetouh called the move unprecedented.
The mayor said he “firmly condemns behaviour that is totally contradictory to the French Republic’s rules on equality and (gender) mixing.”
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The deputy mayor also added that: "This is the first time we've seen something like this in Bordeaux.
"It's problematic because it creates a bad image for the Muslim community, who actually abide by 99% of the laws of France."
Fetouh also revealed that gender discrimination cases have huge fines and can go up to Euro 75,000 and up to five years in prison.
A socialist regional councilor and head of French equality group ACSE Naïma Charaï criticised the move saying it is “unimaginable and unacceptable” adding that respect for public should be seven days a week.
"This is the first time we've seen something like this in Bordeaux," he said, adding that gender-specific rules in shops were not typical for Muslims in the region.
France’s Muslim population is large and although there are instances of extremism, most Muslims consider France a multi-ethnic society and live well integrated lives despite it being a secular society.
The owner of the shop decided to take down the sign as the controversy magnified explaining that he thought it was practical but he does not want to be a criminal.
This article originally appeared on Telegraph