|Biographical detail : ||The first Muslim to hold high political office in France.
In a country that has several million Muslims but not a single Muslim member of parliament, Rachida is the first such a figure to hold senior ministerial office in France.
She was trained as a judge then crossed into big business before becoming a political adviser to Nicholas Sarkozy when he was interior minister in 2002. She became spokesperson during Sarkozy’s presidential campaign to rebuild his reputation on the housing estate, damaged after he called delinquent youths there, “scum”.
She found herself at the centre of a political storm, in 2008, over a bizarre legal case involving a marriage between a Muslim-couple that was annulled because the woman had lied about being a virgin. The ruling triggered a furore because religion is supposed to have no place in the French state and because it raised questions about whether a secular tradition was bending to pressure from France’s Muslim community.
The case also highlighted an unusually personal back-story; Rachida herself had a semi-arranged marriage in 1992 annulled, although she has revealed little about the circumstances.
Young with striking good look, a kindred spirit and authoritarian streak Rachida was appointed, in 2007, as France’s Justice minister. She was elected mayor of the chic and very white 7th arrondissement in Paris.
Rachida was born in Burgundy into a poor family of 12 children, the daughter of an illiterate Moroccan mother and an Algerian father who worked as a builder. From the age of 14, she worked to fund her studies, selling make-up, working in a supermarket and at a hospital. She studied through university, culminating in the prestigious HEC business school.