European diversity campaign celebrating Hijab ended after French backlash


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(RNS) – A diversity campaign designed to fight discrimination against European Muslim women who wear the hijab has been halted after triggering a backlash in France.

The Council of Europe, an intergovernmental human rights organization, said its campaign grew out of efforts by Muslim youth organizations in Europe to strengthen respect for Muslim women amid Islamophobia. growing. “Celebrate diversity and respect the hijab,” read a slogan, promoted under the hashtag # WECAN4HRS. Another image shared online featured a European woman of African descent with the slogan “My scarf, my choice.”

But in France, where face coverings such as the burqa and niqab were banned in public places in 2010, protests against the campaign were swift.

“This must be condemned and because of this France has clearly expressed its extremely strong disapproval and the campaign has therefore been withdrawn as of today,” said Sarah El Haïry, Secretary of State for Youth of the Ministry of Education. The French government lodged an official protest with the Council of Europe ahead of the campaign.

Earlier this year, an institution of the European Union ruled that European companies could prohibit women from wearing the hijab under certain circumstances.

A Council of Europe spokesperson told the BBC that the organization had deleted the campaign’s tweets, “while we reflect on a better presentation of the project.”

“The tweets reflected statements made by individual participants in one of the project’s workshops and do not represent the point of view of the Council of Europe or its Secretary General, Marija Pejcinovic Buric,” the spokesperson said. .

As the French presidential elections are scheduled, far-right politicians and potential candidates have taken hold of the campaign.


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Political commentator Eric Zemmour, a potential presidential candidate and immigration hawk, called the campaign “a veil of Europeans”. And Marie Le Pen, a former presidential candidate for the far-right National Rally, called the campaign “scandalous and indecent”. Although Le Pen is no longer leading the party, she remains a member of the National Assembly and an influential politician.

The slogans and the campaign were born out of two online workshops held in September and organized in collaboration with the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations, a group that represents 33 different youth organizations in 20 European countries and has worked with the Council of Europe for more than 10 years.

“Everyone should be free to wear whatever they want. Muslim women are not allowed to wear the hijab and are excluded from the workplace and education, ”FEMYSO said in a series of tweets, noting that the individual rights of Muslim women across Europe are in jeopardy. and taking note of a recent reported case in the Spanish city of Guadalajara, where a local student was told she should take off her hijab or quit school.

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