Hijab in France- An issue of social, political discourse

The issue of the Hijab has resurfaced in France after a long discourse on the issue highlighting its social and political connotations. The efforts against the hijab had resulted in steering controversy within society and especially the Muslims community who viewed the draft legislation to ban students from wearing hijab, submitted by the rightwing parties at the French Senate, as an “attack” on Islamic values.

The hijab, or vail, is a piece of cloth covering the head of Muslim women. It also a commandment for both male and females to wear decent clothing in accordance with the tenets of Islam. Most recently in the news, a French rightwing politician had been caught verbally abusing a hijabi woman who accompanying her son to school, calling on her to take off the hijab.

This very incident had reignited the discourse of the legality of the process of banning the hijab, posing a very important question: Is wearing the hijab against the law or not? Speaking on the issue to KUNA, head of the Islam in France Foundation Ghaleb Bencheikh said that France was experiencing a crisis with far right political parties locking horns with members of Muslim community with the latter being depicted in a heinous manner. The ban of hijab in France is a multifaceted issue with political and social dimensions, he said, adding that French society, in recent years, had been fearing anything that has to do with Islam and Muslims.

The fear of Islam could be attributed to the history between France and Muslims dating back possibly to medieval crusades in addition to recent terror attacks witnessed in the country, which were linked to Muslim extremists, indicated Bencheikh. Most French citizens, unfortunately, view the hijab in a negative manner, connecting it with false notions of oppression and backwardness, indicated Bencheikh who deemed this view as unjust. He stressed that cool heads should prevail in regards to the headscarf or hijab to reflect the true humane essence of French society instead of bigotry and strictness.

Meanwhile, head of the French lawyer and international law expert Majid Bouden revealed that the hijab had become widespread in French society, which usually frowns upon display of religious symbols. France had renewed law 1905, which separates church from state and the legal system took another step with a 2000 law, which prevents religious symbols such as Christian Cross, Jewish Kippah, and the Hijab from being worn by university professors, educators and doctors. He indicated that the law was not against Islam in particular, adding that viewing as such as a distortion of reality.

However, the increasing habit of wearing the hijab had provoked society, which is linking the headwear with extremism and terrorism, Bouden said, adding that this matter reflects negatively on Muslims, especially immigrants, who are caught in the hot debate over the hijab.

Source: KUNA