France in bid to ban the hijab
THE French senate has proposed banning the wearing of the hijab for girls under the age of 18 and for mothers accompanying their children to swimming pools or on school trips. According to Euronews, the proposals need the approval of France’s National Assembly before it is passed into law.
The proposals came as France attempted to introduce a so-called anti-separatism law which aimed to bolster the country’s secular values, said the report.
President Emmanuel Macron previously said the hijab was not in accordance with French ideals and a ban on face coverings would empower women.
In 2010, France was the first Western country to ban full-face veils in public, and the wearing of headscarves and coverings has been the subject of a decades-long debate in the country.
Muslim women wear the hijab, which usually covers the hair, head and chest, in the presence of any male outside of their immediate family.
A Muslim expat, who declined to be named, has been living in France for 19 years. The 40-year-old teacher – and mother of two daughters under the age of 18 – said she was not surprised by the proposal.
“Two years ago, they submitted the proposal for hijab-wearing mothers, who accompany school outings, not to be allowed to do so. At the time, it was not voted in by the National Assembly. This time, they have added girls under 18. But there are not that many girls who wear the hijab as it is already banned in schools. If you look at the last 30 years, the question of the hijab has been raised in politics numerous times.”
She said all the Muslim community
could do during the pandemic was sign petitions and write to politicians about their grievances. Had it not been for the lockdown in France, she said peaceful protest marches would be held.
She said Muslim women who worked in the government and the private sector, with the exception of certain foreign companies, were not allowed to wear hijabs.
The expat said it was ironic that most of the time it was the hijab-wearing mothers who were available to accompany classes on outings.
“So, even schoolteachers and principals say that the proposal puts them in a difficult situation.”
The ban has triggered international outrage on social media under the hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab.
Hana Haths, a motivational speaker from Johannesburg, has lent her support to the hashtag. She took to Facebook to show her support.
The 36-year-old said the ban was a gross attempt at religious intolerance, discrimination against religion, and women, particularly Muslim women.
“Just like how forcing women to wear the hijab is wrong, so is forcing them to take it off. For a lot of women, globally, the wearing of the hijab isn’t a mere religious implementation. It is our freedom to express our identity, a reminder of our inner and spiritual growth as Muslim women, and a representation of the value we have for our bodies. It is our choice and removing the choices of people in a country goes against human rights.”
Haths said if a woman had the right to show off her body, women who choose to cover it should be afforded the same consideration.
“Sadly, this is the result of normalising hate speech and discrimination. It spreads its ugliness. It began with the banning of the niqab. We kept silent and it’s now extended to the hijab. But we are responsible as well. We stand undecided with regards to our religion until someone removes that choice and begins to make those decisions for us.”
She said she hoped the hashtag created an awareness of what was going on globally with regards to Islam and the ill intentions of governments.
“We pray that the Almighty grant guidance to the French senate. May Allah grant you ease and success through this and may this vote never see the lightness of day.”
Dr Faisal Suliman, from the South African Muslim Network, said the proposed ban was discriminatory and illogical. “We are in the process of sending a letter of concern to the French Embassy.
“This decision will probably drive people to become extremists. The French government can take a lesson from South Africa. We have managed to peacefully integrate so many cultures, free of discrimination.”
Suliman said France had a Muslim population of about five million people.
“By doing this they are isolating the Muslim community and creating a laager mentality. This could lead to the Muslim community rebelling against the government. The French government claims to be a country of freedom and equality but this proposed ban shows its double standards.”
Zaahir Deen, the chairperson of the Lajpaal Foundation, a non-profit organisation, said: “The precedent being set by the French government is one that defies human rights. Muslims are now being forced to sacrifice their beliefs because the school of thought, which has controlled this movement, shows disregard to the wearing of the hijab, which denotes a woman in Islam.”
He said those affected by the ban were side-lined and have no voice on the matter. “This has completely violated their right to practise their religion freely. This narrow-minded farce is nothing more than racism and it is by all accounts, completely unacceptable.”
Mufti Moosa Salie, from the Jamiatul Ulama KZN – Council of Muslim Theologians, said France’s proposal was a step to further stigmatise an already disenfranchised minority.
“It is offensive, unjust and an affront to human rights and dignity.”
He said the motto of France – liberty, equality and fraternity – was only meant for certain classes.
“In keeping with their vision for France, perhaps they (the senate) should propose a change to their national motto … to tyranny, inequality and partiality.”