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Hijabs: Prohibition or Choice?


Written by Saranya Mondal

Edited by Anvita Tripathi

Illustrated by Patricia Mercado


 

Earlier, in April of 2021, the French Government set out to ‘strengthen’ the already imposed

‘anti-separation’ law. Among the few provisions that it states, the law has now resulted in the permanent banning of the Hijab with somewhat whimsical justifications. Here with more, Saranya Mondal of Perspectoverse, presents everything there is to know about the French

canon that brought down the delicate balance, that is French secularism.

 

Derived from the Arabic word which loosely translates to a barrier or partition, a Hijab is a traditional veil worn over the head by Muslim women and is an Islamic style of clothing in

general. It is religiously worn in the presence of any man outside of their intermediate family.

This conforms to the ‘Islamic standards of modesty’.


An inquiry was initiated by the French Government after President Nicolas Sarkozy stated in

2009 that these religious veils, that conceal most of one’s head, were “not welcome” in France. Sarkozy stated that the law should be implemented to emancipate women from being forced to cover their faces and to uphold “France’s secular values”. Islamic headscarves were first banned from the state schools of France in 2004. Later, in 2010, they banned the niqab (a full-face Islamic veil) from all public and government-owned places. Senator Christian Bilhac said that young girls should not be forced to wear these veils and that this amendment is actually offered refuge. On the contrary, Muslim women, perfectly capable to decide and fend for themselves, are in full protest. Through the medium of social media platforms, not only French, but women all around the world have raised quite the rebellion.


In September 2010 the bill was passed in the French Senate with a vote of 246 to 1 with 100

abstentions and with a vote of 335 to 1 in the National Assembly. It is illegal to wear anything that conceals one’s face in public except when worshipping on religious grounds or travelling in a private car. The bill was enacted to proscribe people from hiding one’s face behind any form of clothing. This law is applicable to tourists as well.


The fine for disobeying this law can amount up to 150 euros and men who force the women within their family to wear these traditional veils are subject to jail for one year including a fine worth 30,000 euros. The fine increases to 60,000 euros and the jail term to two years if a minor is constrained. The ban is yet to be set in stone and passed on as a law, as the National Assembly is required to sign off on it.


The social media platforms were actively expressing themselves and are thoroughly enraged.

The age to consent to sex in France in 15 and consent to Hijab is 18 pointed out a twitter user including, “It’s a law against Islam. #handsoffmyhijab #francehijabban”. The Olympic athlete, Ibtihaj Muhammad shared a post via Instagram implying that the Senate’s amendment could indicate that “Islamophobia is deepening in France”. ‘#handsoffmyhijab’ has been trending along with the Muslim American Representative Ilhan Omar’s words- “France, the world is watching”. This particular hashtag spawned millions of TikTok videos by American Muslim women to show support for their French correlatives.


Despite the outcry and various protests, the right wing senators of the party ‘Les

Republicains’ decided to fortify the initial law.

France has been in constant discussion regarding the outfits of Muslim women for three decades now. Since 1989, when girls were not allowed to wear head scarves in middle

school, France have had a number of controversies when it comes to Muslim women who “dare” to wear their traditional veils in public. In fact, women have been attacked and dismissed from and for attending to their errands, commitments and/or enterprise just because they were wearing a traditional scarf. The question that what they were doing or were in progress of, might help society and could be an advantage for a communities’ future; is never asked.


French President Emmanuel Macron’s majority party might not vote for the law to be implemented and the provisions given, received disadvantageous and critical opinions from the current government and law commission. However, they have been approved by one of the two legislative chambers and one cannot help but conclude that these lawmakers are ready to take as many leaps required to successfully suppress and eventually remove Muslm women from their sacred public sphere.


The debate, while active, is taking place without some of the prominent and concerned parties. The French government has been resolutely trying to extinguish the fires that they set. Muslim women are desperately trying to achieve freedom over their own bodies. A group of rebellions have risen and will continue to rise until this is quelled.


Any free-thinking individual would ask themselves, if secular values are so sacred to the French ideal, then why shall the same ideal restrict a Muslim woman from making a choice she wishes to make? What is it that France is trying to achieve?


Evidently, governments offer full freedom of expression in theory, but only half in practice.

Decades of belief, customs, traditions, and most importantly, choices, all stand against one

cold decree ‘veiled’ with the promise of secularism. Which of the two does more harm, is the truth we, as a society, wish to enshroud from ourselves.


Women despite race, religion can wear whatever they want and to pass such laws without their opinion and consent, is draconian and will not end well.



References:


1. ‘Law against Islam’: French vote in favour of hijab ban condemned

(14/05/2021)

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/9/a-law-against-islam

2. Opinion: France’s latest vote to ban hijabs shows how far it will go to exclude Muslim

women

(14/05/2021)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/04/21/france-hijab-ban-vote-exclusion/

3. Burqa Legislation in France

(14/05/2021)

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/france-problem-with-the-burqa-ban-islam- muslims-islamophobia-6080468/




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