#HandsOffMyHijab: Votes for Islamophobia in France
In April, the French Senate voted in favor a measure prohibiting children under 18 from wearing the hijab in public. The “ban in public space of any ostentatious religious sign by minors and any clothing or clothing which would signify the inferiority of women over men” is the latest escalation in France against Islamic values.
the disposition, which has yet to receive the approval of the French National Assembly, is an amendment to a “anti-separatism” bill intended to strengthen secularism in France. The original bill has already been passed by the National Assembly. Prime Minister Jean Castex declared this “[t]his bill is not a text directed against religions or against the Muslim religion in particular ”, but critics have pointed out that although the bill never explicitly refers to Islam, it clearly aims to restrict behaviors specific to Islam. In fact, President Emmanuel Macron and Castex he himself attacked both “Islamism” and “Islamist separatism” in the statements leading up to the bill. Nevertheless, the bill enjoys broad support in France. On the right, many even argue that the bill does not go far enough, resulting in amendments like this one that the Conservative Senate passed.
Supporters of the hijab ban amendment argue that they are releasing young women who are forced to cover their hair in oppressive ways and need protection in their youth. If the amendment passes in the National Assembly, women will have to be 18 to consent to wearing a hijab. On the other hand, the French government has recently set the age of sexual consent at 15, which raised questions as to whether the hijab ban is really meant to protect young women who are too young to decide to wear a hijab or whether it is simply an unwarranted attack on the religious freedom. Most French political experts don’t expect the amendment to pass by the National Assembly, but its passage in the Senate reflects deep anti-Islamic sentiments in France.
The amendment encountered significant violent reaction on social networks. Women around the world have used the hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab share their stories, criticize the ban and express their support for Muslim girls in France, including Amani al-Khatahtbeh, founder of the site Muslim girl, and Mohamed rawdah, a model of Somali origin. Muslim American athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is an Olympic fencer, called the ban “Islamophobia enshrined in law.”
The French constitution is based on the idea of secularism, a term which does not have a direct translation into English but which is often translated as “secularism”. Secularism as described in article 1 of the French Constitution does not aim to promote or attack religion but aims to keep it out of public affairs. The spirit behind secularism is the separation of church and state at the highest level, but in recent years French secularism has shifted from pro-secularism to anti-religion. In particular, France has been at the forefront of the rise of global Islamophobia in recent decades.
More particularly, in 2010 France forbids all veils that cover the face, including burqas and niqabs, in a 246-1 vote in the Senate. It was presented as a measure to improve security and protect freedom. the UN Human Rights Committee found, however, that the ban violates women’s religious freedom. Even so, the law remains in effect today. In fact, despite the obligation for all citizens to wear face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the The French Minister of the Interior has confirmed that those who wear the burqa or niqab in public will continue to be punished. In response, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted: “Can Islamophobia be more transparent? The French government imposes masks but still bans the burqua. “
In addition to the burqa ban and the proposed hijab ban, Muslim girls are already prohibited from wearing headscarves in public schools. Additionally, many French cities have banned Islamically appropriate swimwear on public beaches and swimming areas. In 2016, there were numerous reports of women being fined for wearing “burkinis”. A ticket which went viral indicated that the woman in question was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism”. These “good morals and secularism” in France consist of require all men to wear Speedo style clothing at swimming pools and prevent women from dressing modestly.
Supporters of Islamophobic legislation report a wave of attacks in France since 2015 by radical extremists that have gained international attention. In early 2015, the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie hebdo were attacked by a group of extremists in retaliation for a satirical cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Later that year, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack in Paris that left more than 100 dead. In October 2020, a middle school teacher was killed after showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
There is no doubt that terrorism is a major problem in France, but the French response has only served to alienate their community of around six million Muslims who, according to Bench search, represent nearly 9% of the population. For example, in the aftermath of the October attack, Macron made strong remarks that many called Islamophobic – the French government also cut some Muslim aid groups and closed a large mosque. As a result, Muslim countries around the world have called for a boycott of all French products. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted this “[t]This is a time when President Macron could have provided a touch of healing and denied space to extremists rather than creating additional polarization and marginalization that inevitably leads to radicalization “and”[b]By attacking Islam, clearly without understanding it, President Macron has attacked and hurt the feelings of millions of Muslims in Europe and around the world.
Unfortunately, Islamophobia in France has had disastrous consequences for the Muslim population. A Stanford Report found that the headscarf ban in public schools has “had a detrimental effect both on girls’ ability to complete high school and on their trajectories in the labor market”. Research also showed that “French Muslims suffer extraordinary discrimination in the labor market”. Perhaps the most disturbing, anti-Muslim violence has increased drastically in France.
Of course, these problems are not endemic in France. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) find that across Europe there is an alarming increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes. In fact, Islamophobic attacks are on the rise in every country in Europe. Global Islamophobia has increased exponentially since September 11, and Europe provides countless examples of this. For example, in March of this year, Switzerland joined France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria have banned face coverings. Research carried out by Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Religion monitor shows how deeply rooted anti-Islamic sentiment is in European society: around 40-50% of the population in most Western European countries see Islam as a threat. This proportion is even higher in Eastern Europe. As a result, Islamophobia has become a very viable and often even successful political platform for politicians across the continent.
In the United States, many have noted that this past year has been marked not only by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also by a pandemic of systemic racism and discrimination. Europe is also experiencing a double pandemic – in addition to the destruction caused by COVID-19, an Islamophobic social pandemic sows mistrust, marginalizes the Muslim community and encourages hatred across the continent. Unlike the COVID-19 pandemic, the second pandemic in Europe has no end in sight. There is no vaccine against this type of virus.