French interior minister Gerald Darmanin has landed in trouble for conveying Ramadan greetings to Muslims.
“I wish all Muslims in our country a happy Ramadan,” Darmanin said.
Twitter users accused the minister of the country which prides itself on secularism of hypocrisy.
Several asked why Darmanin had not tweeted greetings for the Catholic holiday of Lent, which began on 2 March.
The minister also received criticism from some Muslims, who pointed out that he last year pushed through an “anti-separatism” bill that activists say targets France’s Muslim community.
As part of the bill, several mosques were shut down for preaching “unacceptable” content.
“Coming from a minister who has fervently taken part in the criminalization, repression, and/or dissolution of several Muslim figures and structures… it’s damn cheeky,” journalist and activist Siham Assbague said in reply to Darmanin’s tweet.
Some Twitter users accused Darmanin of trying to appease French Muslims ahead of the country’s elections.
The latest opinion polls showed France’s centrist leader Emmanuel Macron is losing ground to Marine Le Pen, a far-right candidate who has expressed Islamophobic views.
Darmanin responded to the backlash for his tweet on Saturday.
“Yesterday I wished a happy Ramadan to our Muslim compatriots, and I’m proud of that,” he said on Facebook.
“Since then, many comments, a bit racist, evoking that I did not wish a happy birthday to Christians or Jews.”
He produced a list of links to congratulatory messages he had shared for Christian and Jewish holidays.
Darmanin – whose middle name is Moussa – is of Algerian, Armenian, and Maltese descent.
He announced last month that he will be outlawing two leading pro-Palestine NGOs, accusing them of “fuelling hatred”.