The French Senate voted to ban Muslim girls under the age of 18 from wearing the Hijab in public spaces. Following in the wake of other prohibitions on burkinis and the Hijab, this has sparked outrage in Muslim communities worldwide. PDBYWhy takes a closer look.
On 30 March, the French Senate passed a vote to ban Muslim girls under the age of 18 from wearing the Hijab in public spaces. This is in addition to the French Senate’s prohibiting Hijab-wearing mothers from accompanying children on school field trips, as well as the banning of burkinis in public swimming areas. This sparked outrage in the Muslim community around the world. While the French government attests that the Hijab is a symbol of gender inferiority, according to the Muslim Students Association’s (MSA) market manager, Azraa Seedat, over the years, the Hijab has evolved to become a symbol of pride for Muslim women in their ethnic and religious identity.
According to a study by two Stanford scholars on the impact of the 2004 Hijab ban in French public schools, the banning will cause Muslim girls to retract from society and stay home, despite the ‘liberating’ reasons behind the bill. Seedat, in explaining the new ban, says that the ban will force Muslim girls and women to choose between their religion and a place in society. Though the bill does not directly affect Muslim men, it still takes a large psychological toll on them because it shows a larger anti-Muslim campaign that French senate appears to some to be pushing.
She expressed that the ban of Burkinis forces Muslim women out of public spaces and denies them their right to autonomy, and that it forces Muslim school girls to retract from recreational school activities because they cannot fully participate.
Seedat says that the MSA is committed to dispelling common misconceptions about Islam and the practices within the religion. She expresses that if these misconceptions about Islam are dispelled, people will come to understand that France is writing Islamophobia into law. Seedat also believes that this issue is a feminist issue that seeks to control what Muslim women wear under the guise of trying to empower them.
4th year BEng Electronic
“I think the Hijab ban is an attack on freedom of expression. We have laws in a society to protect people. The Hijab ban does the opposite. The only logical reason for the law is Islamophobia. Nuns can wear their head covering and no one has an issue with it. Why is there an issue with the Hijab? People are also covering their faces anyway because of COVID-19. So, it seems the issue is only if you are Muslim and cover your head it is an issue.
The age [of] consent in France is 15, so why does one have to be 18 to consent to wearing an Hijab? The law seems to make it feel as it wants the impression of the Hijab to be something disliked in society or something that’s wrong. It aims to segregate Muslims or make Muslims feel as their religion and beliefs are wrong. A lot of people learn their habits and way of living when they are young. So, imagine being told your whole life as you grow up that wearing the Hijab is wrong and, in turn, your religious beliefs are wrong. This will surely create doubts in the mind of a child and will affect what one believes growing up.
The law passed saddens me as it shows how much misinformation and ignorance there is about my religion. It is ignorance that leads to fear. I urge people who have such fears and mistrust to ask a Muslim about his or her religion to clear up any doubts or misconceptions.”
BSc. Honours Pharmacology
“We are often caught at the crossroads of choosing between what is allowed and what is correct. We see this example in the Hijab ban. For some, the Hijab may represent nothing more than a cloth that adorns the head of a Muslim woman. Yet, for Muslims, this article of clothing symbolises a form of worshiping the Almighty and a means of drawing closer to God. Thus, we reach a divergent pathway when secular law imposes on religious obligations. The question becomes “does the constitution of man have any right to affect the constitution of God” and subsequently “does the religious freedom of an individual have any right to renege the expected norms of society”. By curtailing the rights of a group (whether they be religious, political or otherwise) we are being told that the only way to be included, is to conform to what others have decided to be socially acceptable. The Hijab ban is the aftermath of a much larger problem, and that is intolerance. The beauty of mankind is found in its differences. I believe that the Hijab ban does not just affect Muslims but all those who wish to exercise their religious freedom.”
3rd year Bsc Human Genetics
“For us Muslims, Hijab is not just a veiling over the head, it is an act of worship and obedience to God. It serves to preserve our modesty, and protects us from certain types of harassments and vanity. The Hijab ban in France is heartbreaking. We are made to believe that this a measure to advance women’s rights. How is this liberating when possibly most Muslim women feel liberated in their headscarves? Therefore shouldn’t [the] choice to wear the Hijab be an option rather than banning it? Rather, it is a depiction of how discrimination and stereotype against religion and religious practices still exist in our global society. Muslim women feel stigmatised and excluded from the public, sports, swimming facilities and various industries such as cosmetics and entertainment. Personally, I am disappointed that the government of France constantly attacks Muslims and our religion. They think putting us in a corner will shut us off, but we keep coming back up. This alone is liberating.”
Photo: Madeeha Hazarvi and Kelly-Anne Kong