President Emmanuel Macron on Monday greeted French Muslim leaders after they agreed on a “charter of principles” aimed at combating sectarianism and radicalized teachings accused of an upsurge in jihadist attacks in France in recent years years.
The charter offers “a clarification of the organization of the Muslim community,” Macron said after a meeting with representatives of the French Council for Muslim Worship (CFCM), his office said.
It will also provide a framework for a new National Council of Imams which will be responsible for monitoring imams practicing in the country.
“It is about a clear, decisive and precise commitment in favor of the republic”, declared Macron, welcoming “a text truly founding of the relations between the State and Islam in France”.
Macron had urged the council to act against “political Islam” in November after the murder of Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded outside his school after showing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed as part of a freedom class expression.
The attack sparked a crackdown on extremist mosques and Muslim associations, as well as a vigorous defense of French secularism which is seen as increasingly threatened by radicalized Islamic teachings.
“Defend foreign regimes”
The new 10-point charter “clearly states that the principles of the Muslim faith are perfectly compatible with the principles of the republic,” CFCM President Mohammed Moussaoui told reporters after the meeting.
The agreement was reached on Saturday during a meeting with the Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin after weeks of resistance from certain members of the CFCM who opposed a “restructuring” of Islam to make it compatible with the French law and values.
Moussaoui said that the eight federations of the CFCM, representing various currents of Islam, had approved the charter, but that three had not yet signed the agreement because “they need a little more time to explain this. that it means to their supporters, “said an Elysee official.
>> ‘Islam is hyper-politicized in France, but Muslims are not part of the debate’
The charter rejects the “instrumentalization” of Islam for political ends and affirms equality between men and women, while denouncing practices such as excision, forced marriages and “certificates of virginity” for the newlyweds.
“No religious conviction, whatever it is, can be invoked to evade the duties of citizens”, he specifies.
He also explicitly rejects racism and anti-Semitism, and warns that mosques “are not created for the propagation of nationalist rhetoric defending foreign regimes.”
Macron also said authorities plan to expel the 300 or so imams in France sent to teach from Turkey, Morocco and Algeria.
The agreement on the charter comes as a parliamentary committee on Monday began debate on a new law to combat “pernicious” Islamist radicalism with measures to ensure the strict separation of church and state in the public sphere.
The legislation would tighten the rules on matters ranging from religious education to polygamy, although Macron insisted the goal is to protect all French citizens without stigmatizing the country’s four to five million Muslims, the largest number in Europe.
French President Emmanuel Macron has issued an ultimatum to the French Council for Muslim Worship. Earlier this week. Macron and the French Interior Minister met with leaders of the French Council for Muslim Worship and asked them to agree to a charter that seeks to oppose political Islam. The board has had 15 days and there are signs that the charter will be accepted.
The council has already agreed to create a national body in France that will oversee the accreditation of imams in the country.
Through the charter, France wants to underline two things
Islam is a religion, not a political movement
There will be no foreign interference among French Muslim communities
Feelings in France and in Muslim countries have skyrocketed since the terrorist attacks on the Prophet Muhammad cartoons that have taken place in recent months. France has been firm on its position, saying that it will protect the values of the republic when there have been calls to boycott French products in Muslim countries.
On Friday, Macron even accused Turkey and Russia of promoting anti-French sentiment in Africa by funding people who stoke resentment against France through the media.
The Macron government has also prepared a bill to prevent radicalization. This was offered earlier this year. Some severe measures have been proposed. Home schooling will be limited to discourage Madrasa-style education. Severe penalties are provided for those who intimidate public officials on legal grounds. The bill also wants children to have an identification number. A number that can be used to make sure they are attending school. Parents who break this law could face up to six months in prison, as well as heavy fines.
Macron’s crackdown on radical Islam is welcomed, but he also receives its share of criticism.
Under a new security law introduced by his government, filming police will be prohibited. Anyone found in violation of the provision may be fined up to $ 53,000 and / or sent to jail for one year.
Read also | Turkey and Russia promote anti-France sentiment, says Emmanuel Macron
Those who criticize the provision say it will limit freedom of expression. Journalists slam the proposal.
The French Minister of the Interior defended his government in the French Parliament.
“Journalists will be able to film, citizens will be able to film. What we do not want are calls for murder. We may have a difference on this point, but also discuss normally by reading the text without fancy”, a- he declared. .
However, his assurances appear hollow. Because when he was defending the proposal in parliament — there were demonstrations outside the French National Assembly.
A journalist covering the protest was arrested for filming the protests. According to reports, the journalist was arrested even after presenting his credentials to law enforcement.
Journalists and human rights groups took to the streets this week in Paris to voice their opposition to the security bill. They said the citizens might lose their power to control the powerful.
The local police can gain more autonomy because of the new security law. There is also talk of expanding the use of surveillance drones in high crime areas.
The massacre of three people in the Notre-Dame basilica in Nice on Thursday shook all of France, including the five million Muslims in this country.
The people of Nice flocked to lay flowers and candles in front of the church where on Thursday a 21-year-old Tunisian, Brahim al-Aouissaoui, stabbed three people.
President Emmanuel Macron called it an “Islamist terrorist attack”.
It happened just 13 days after history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded outside his high school in northeast Paris.
Muslim leaders in France strongly condemned the killings.
Abdallah Zekri, secretary general of the French Council for Muslim Worship (CFCM) declared that the Muslim community was “stunned by these attacks” following the “cowardly murder of teacher Samuel Paty”.
“We feel hatred and anger against these criminals, these terrorists, who use the cartoons of Mohammed as a pretext to kill here in France,” he told RFI.
“I call on our fellow citizens to be vigilant in these difficult times, to question the motivations behind these ill-intentioned attacks which sow death and division in our society.
Thursday, shortly after the knife attack in Nice, Mohamed Moussaoui, CFCM boss, said:
“As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, I call on all Muslims in France to cancel the Mawlid feast celebrations.” Mawlid marks the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, celebrated next Thursday.
Pitting people against each other
Nice, on the French Riviera, has a large Muslim population, mostly from neighboring Tunisia.
Many live in the quiet, cosmopolitan neighborhood around Notre Dame Basilica.
Among a series of halal butchers and shops selling North African food, Tunisian-born Leila and her husband have run a bakery for 35 years.
“We get along with everyone: Catholics, Italians, Arabs,” they told RFI. “As long as we respect people, they respect us.”
Leila said Thursday’s knife attack looked like a betrayal of her religion.
“No one has the right to kill, to take the life of a mother,” she said, referring to Brazilian mother Simone Baretto Silvaone – one of the three victims of the attack. Shortly before she died of her injuries, she asked those who were helping her to “tell my children that I love them”.
The other victims were the father of two children, Vincent Loqués, who worked at the basilica welcoming the faithful, and a 60-year-old woman whose name we do not yet know.
Leila said she felt saddened for the families of the victims but also feared that the increase in such attacks would divide society and stigmatize Muslims.
“The last time I took the tram, people were looking at us strangely,” she says. “An old man sat next to me and a woman warned him, ‘Be careful, she’s going to cut your throat.’ I preferred to be silent and not to feed the fire, but people mix everything up, pit people against each other.
The enemy within ‘
The French government has promised to crack down on religious extremism and separatism, what Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin called “the enemy within”.
Authorities recently closed a mosque on the outskirts of Paris, Darmanin proposed to ban several Muslim groups, and even suggested a ban on the sale of halal and kosher food in supermarkets.
Some Muslims believe there is a risk that Islam in general, rather than the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, will be labeled an enemy.
“Like all French citizens, we are devastated by what happened,” an elderly man, leaving the Grand Mosque in Paris, told RFI.
“These people do not represent Islam at all. They say ‘Allahu Akbar’ but when they are before God they will be punished. How can they kill on our behalf? It is not possible.
“You know, the Quran says’ whoever takes a life – [unless as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land] – it will be as if they were killing all of humanity ”.
All the children of God
A young devotee said he feared people would increasingly confuse Islam with terror. Pointing to the people coming out of the mosque, he said, “You can see that there are a lot of good Muslims; terrorists can be Christians, Muslims, or whatever. Stupidity knows no religion or border.
“The people who carry out these attacks are not Muslims,” insisted a young woman in a hijab. “A true Muslim has beliefs and fears Allah. “
“I am very shocked by people who cut the throats of other people,” an older woman told RFI, her voice trembling. “They hadn’t done anything wrong, they were just praying in church. Why such hatred? We are all children of God. It must stop.
The challenge of conquering evil
Heavily armed French soldiers are now mobilized to protect places of worship, in particular Catholic churches, before the religious holiday of All Saints on Sunday.
Several stood in front of the doors of a church in the old quarter of Nice where Father Michel Angela prayed Thursday evening to bring comfort to people traumatized by knife attacks.
“You cannot react when the emotion is too strong, you have to take a little time to react more calmly”, he explained to RFI, explaining why they had waited several hours before welcoming the parishioners.
“Evil is the challenge,” he said, quoting 20th century French philosopher Paul Ricoeur. “This is indeed the great challenge we are now facing.
Pascal was among the twenty or so faithful to the church. “We always think that a church is a sacred place, that it offers protection,” he said. “But history repeats itself, it’s always the same violence, men against men, opposing each other on completely absurd ideas”.
For Leah, Thursday’s attack brought back bitter memories of the July 14, 2016 terrorist attack when a Tunisian with ties to the Islamic State armed group drove a truck on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, killing 86 people, including many Muslims.
“We have been particularly targeted here in Nice,” she said. “We try not to give in to fear, hatred or anguish, but to live in peace and with love. It is a challenge, given what is happening today in this context of global terrorism.
Mohamed Colin, editor of the Muslim daily Saphirnews, said his publication was “deeply saddened” by what had happened and wished to show his deep solidarity with French Catholics.
“We know full well that Muslims in France have many links with Catholics. There is solidarity between these two communities, “he told RFI. World religions program.
“Interfaith dialogue is extremely rich both at national and local level. Many mosques organize debates with the support of priests. [the terrorists] precisely attempted to destroy this symbol and the initiatives that work so well.
The head of the French Muslim NGO BarakaCity publicly requested asylum in Turkey for himself and his organization, following the French government’s crackdown on its Muslim population and its dissolution of the NGO.
Idriss Sihamedi, founder and director of BarakaCity, whose house was raided by the counterterrorism police two weeks ago for allegations of harassment and extremism, announced on Twitter his request for asylum in Turkey yesterday.
In the tweet, in which he tagged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sihamedi said: “Following the lies of the [French] government… and the closure of the humanitarian and human rights NGO, I officially ask for political asylum for BarakaCity.
Following the lies of the government of@EmmanuelMacron and the closure of the humanitarian and human rights NGO, I call for the defense of political asylum of @Barakacity to the president @RTErdogan as well as that of my team and myself, who are undergoing death threats.
In response, the official account of the General Directorate of Migration Management of Turkey responded today, informing it that his “name, surname, identity information and asylum applications, including passport numbers … will be evaluated “once they are sent. He added that “Following your information, our Istanbul airport team will be informed of the situation.”
Sihamedi’s asylum claim in Turkey comes after BarakaCity, the NGO that distributes aid to two million people around the world, was closed and dissolved by the French government after two weeks of investigation into the links “Islamists”.
READ: France demands Arab countries prevent boycott of French companies for insults to the Prophet
In an interview with Middle East Monitor this week, Sihamedi denied the allegations and argued that the government raids against him and other organizations were carried out to send a message to the French Muslim community not to speak out or to hold opinions that contrast with those of the state and its secular values.
For many, his asylum request raises the question of an exodus of the French Muslim community and its businesses from the country, against a backdrop of government repression. Harsh measures were launched this month when French President Emmanuel Macron spoke out against “Islamist separatism” and shut down some Muslim organizations, businesses and even cafes in the country.
He also refused to condemn the disrespectful cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), saying France will not give up on making cartoons based on free speech.
As a result, Erdogan said last week that Macron suffered from mental health issues and “needed treatment on a mental level”, asking: “What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand not freedom of belief and who behaves that way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith? ” France withdrew its Turkish ambassador in response.
In retaliation for France’s repression and incendiary cartoons, calls to boycott French products, brands and companies have been launched in all Muslim-majority countries. While some have already started this boycott at a non-governmental level, such as in Kuwait and Qatar, while Erdogan officially called it in Turkey.
READ: The politicization of civilizations and ideologies: Macron, Charlie Hebdo and blasphemy in France
Calls to boycott French products – Caricature [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]
PARIS (Reuters) – A senior French Muslim official on Tuesday urged fellow Muslims to ignore the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad rather than resort to violence in a call for moderation amid outrage across the Muslim world.
The cartoons became a subject of controversy after an 18-year-old student of Chechen descent beheaded a teacher for showing the pictures to his students as part of a civic education class.
France has authorized the distribution of the cartoons, considered blasphemous by Muslims. In some Muslim countries, politicians and other figures have launched rhetorical attacks against French leaders, accusing them of being anti-Islam and calling for a boycott of French products.
The president of the French Council of Muslim Worship, Mohammed Moussaoui, reminded the faithful that such caricatures were permitted by French law.
“This same law does not force anyone to love them and does not prohibit anyone from hating them,” he said in a statement.
Moussaoui suggested that Muslims follow the example of Prophet Mohammad, who according to Islamic tradition simply ignored insults when a crowd once mocked him calling him “Mudammam” – the ugly one.
“Is it not more in keeping with the prophet’s example to ignore these cartoons and regard them as unrelated to our prophet?” “, did he declare.
Reporting by Michel Rose, editing by Angus MacSwan
The main intermediary between Islam and the government in France has announced that it is working on a “common program for the training of imams” and a “plan to fight” against radicalism, a week after the beheading of a teacher in the country.
French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed a new crackdown on extremism after the gruesome murder of Samuel Paty, a teacher who showed students caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad as part of a free speech class.
The French Council for Muslim Worship (CFCM) said on Saturday that it was “aware of its responsibilities” and “intends to participate in the overhaul of Muslim worship taking into account its cultural and social implications”.
Mohamed Moussaoui, president of the CFCM, said in a statement that the group will draw up a plan to fight radicalism and extremism “to immunize French youth against the propaganda of preachers of hatred and division”.
French authorities have grappled with Islamist extremism for years, and the murder of Samuel Paty near the school where he worked in the commune of Conflans Saint-Honorine, northwest of Paris, has sparked heated debate in the country.
Following the murder, the Cheikh Yassine collective – a pro-Palestinian organization which, according to Macron, was “directly involved in the attack – was closed by the authorities, and a mosque in Pantin, in northeast Paris. , was closed for six months.
Some have accused the government crackdown of being disproportionate and dangerous.
Paty, 47, a history and geography teacher, was beheaded Friday October 16 after showing students caricatures printed and republished by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, himself the target of terrorist attacks on several occasions.
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The OECD’s proposal to allow national governments to tax part of the profits of multinationals on the basis of sales in their countries would generate little additional revenue, according to an independent assessment by the French government.
A simulation carried out by the French Economic Analysis Council, whose mission is to advise the French government, revealed that the evolution of corporate tax revenues would not be substantial for France, Germany, United States and China on OECD proposals to tear up a century of international corporate tax rules. Meanwhile, it would create bureaucratic complexities, the study notes.
France, for example, would benefit from taxing part of the sales of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google likes at home but would lose part of the right to tax its giants like the luxury group LVMH, the city council mentioned.
Instead, any additional taxes levied by advanced economies would come from the OECD’s second proposal to agree on a global minimum effective corporate tax rate – a much more controversial plan than the first proposal.
Mathieu Parenti, assistant professor of economics at the Free University of Brussels, said the limited results of the OECD proposals could make them “politically feasible because nothing changes”.
The big tax gains, he said, come from the alternative global minimum tax proposal, which is a “bit brutal” to get “a big slice of the pie and reduce the incentive to shift taxes. “to low-tax countries like Ireland, the Netherlands or Luxembourg. But the OECD would also have a harder time getting an international deal for it.
The Paris-based institution is engaged in its own impact assessment of its proposals and believes that the change in the location of taxing rights would be significantly greater than the study by the French Council for Economic Analysis suggests.
The independent analysis estimated that France is currently losing at least 5 billion euros per year as its multinationals shift their profits and the location of intangible assets, such as brands, to low-tax jurisdictions. That’s about 10%. 100% of annual corporate tax revenues.
The council estimated that there would be only a 0.3 percent increase in French and German corporate tax revenues in a scenario that attempted to replicate the OECD’s plans to prevent multinationals from moving their profits around the world to avoid tax.
Philippe Martin, chairman of the French Council for Economic Analysis, said the low income estimates resulted from proposals to tax “only a tiny fraction of multinational corporations’ global profits” based on where they sell rather than where they are. physical location.
The OECD’s plan is to divide world profits into “current” profits which are taxed as today and “residual” profits, part of which would be taxed in the country of sale. Given the poor results, the board therefore suggested a much more drastic policy of taking a share of the overall profits in the country of sale rather than just residual profits.
The minimal effects found in the independent study are however questioned within the international organization based in Paris. He’s still working on his analysis, and Pascal Saint-Amans, director of the OECD’s Center for Tax Policy and Administration, expects the change in taxing rights to have a bigger and more positive impact on taxpayers. income in major European countries, the United States and China, with heavier losses in tax havens.
But he accepted the general orientation of the results of the French Council, the first part of the OECD proposals always having the objective of addressing the distribution of taxing rights between countries, thus collecting less money than the second. part, which guaranteed all multinationals the payment of a minimum level of tax.
The “burkini ban” that sparked shock and anger around the world has been suspended by a leading French court.
The decision of the Council of State, the highest administrative court in France, was specific to the Riviera town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but the decision should set a legal precedent for the thirty or so seaside resorts that have issued similar decrees.
Photos released earlier in the week showed a woman on a Nice beach being ordered to remove her top and fined by four armed police officers. Other women described being accosted in the same way while sunbathing.
Lawyers for two human rights groups have challenged the legality of the ban, saying it violates fundamental freedoms and that city mayors have largely overstepped their powers by dictating what women can and cannot wear on the beaches.
Patrice Spinosi, representative of the League for Human Rights, said women who have already been fined can protest them based on the court ruling.
“This is a decision that aims to set a legal precedent,” he said. “Today, all the ordinances taken must comply with the decision of the Council of State.
Protesters organize a beach party in burkini in front of the French embassy
“Logically, the mayors should withdraw these ordinances. Otherwise, legal proceedings could be initiated against these cities.
“Today, the rule of law is that these orders are not justified. They violate fundamental freedoms and should be removed.
A burkini is a long swimsuit, designed to allow more women the freedom to go to the beach and go swimming.
It looks like a wetsuit and is not only worn by those who practice Islam.
Many women, including Nigella Lawson, wear the burkini to protect their skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
But mayors in southeastern France had claimed that Burkinis oppress women – even though the garment’s stated purpose is to allow women greater freedoms.
The inventor of the burkini, Australian designer Aheda Zanetti, wrote in the Guardian: “When I invented the burkini in early 2004, it was to give women freedom, not to take it off.
“It was about integration and acceptance, equality and not being judged.
Sadiq Khan on French burkini ban: “I don’t think it’s fair”
“I wanted to do something positive – and anyone can wear it, Christian, Jew, Hindu. It’s just a garment for a modest person, or someone with skin cancer, or a new mother who doesn’t want to wear a bikini, it’s not a symbol of Islam. ‘
A demonstration, the “Wear whatever you want Beach Party”, was held yesterday in front of the French embassy in London.
Fariah Syed, one of the organizers, told Metro.co.uk that day: “We organized the event to show our solidarity with Muslim women, not only in France but around the world.
When is a burkini not a burkini?
“The ban on burkini, for us, contradicts all these values that France claims to defend – freedom, equality and fraternity. If a woman is free to expose her body, why is she not free to cover it?
“Women should be allowed to wear what they want, when they want. Women should be treated equally, regardless of their religion.
“This ban perpetuates a stereotype of Muslim women and by removing their freedom of choice, the French government has effectively become the one they claim to be fighting against – oppressors.”
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Algerian feminists reacted with fury to the controversial “Hijab Day” held last Wednesday at an elite Parisian university.
The backlash came as Sciences Po University invited classmates to wear the Muslim headscarf for a day to raise awareness of the treatment of women wearing the hijab.
One woman said she wanted to “cry out my revolt” against the day while another asked why the rights of veiled women should be highlighted in relation to the plight of unveiled women in the world.
Scroll down for video
The invitation of the Hijab Day Facebook page to the event which was intended to highlight the discrimination faced by women who wear the Muslim headscarf on a daily basis – but which was criticized by Algerian feminists
The Hijab Day event took place following Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ controversial statement that he wanted to ban all forms of religious headscarves in French universities.
Marieme Helie Lucas, the Algerian founder of “Secularism is a question of women”, argued that “the right to the veil” in France was already “well defended”.
She said more attention needed to be paid to unveiled women who were abused around the world, citing Nigerian girls who were “forcibly converted, veiled and sold as slaves” by militant Islamic group Boko Haram ” and Iraqi women “in the hands of ‘ISIS or’ Daesh ‘.
Ms Lucas added: “Who defended him when Algerian women were slaughtered by armed fundamentalist groups in the 1990s? Who does what today for the Nigerian girls who are forcibly converted, veiled and sold as slaves by Boko Haram and who are still being held by them. Or for Iraqi women in the hands of Daesh?
She added: “Why so many voices for the rights of veiled women and so few for those who are not veiled, whether they are Muslims or not?”
Hijab Day organizer Laetitia Demaya said the event was designed to “raise awareness, open debate and give voice to women who are often debated in public but rarely heard”.
Meanwhile, Lalia Ducos, president of the Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights (WICUR), added that by considering veiled women as the “only ‘representatives’ of Islam,” people risked to discriminate against Muslim women who do not wear the veil.
She spoke of Algerian women killed by fundamentalist groups during the Algerian civil war in the 1990s, with the death toll – including men – estimated at 200,000.
She wrote: “In the name of all the Algerian women who were murdered for refusing the diktat of the dress code, I want to cry out my revolt against this” day “organized by these same students who are supposed to become the elite of our country .
“It is not acceptable that veiled women are discriminated against, however, by confusing religion and culture, by considering veiled women as the only ‘representatives’ of Islam, we run the risk of discriminating against the vast majority of Muslim women. which do not veil. and who fight for the separation between religion and politics, that is to say for secularism, and for the universality of rights.
Ms Ducos added: “The veil is above all designed as a flag that makes fundamentalists more visible: it is mainly political, just like the clothes worn by these men imitating the Taliban.
“Islamist fundamentalism is a totalitarian ideology that manipulates Islam for political ends.
An Algerian sociologist argued that “the right to the veil” in France was already “well defended” and that more focus was needed on unveiled women who were abused around the world.
The women’s comments come nearly a week after Hijab Day – which the day’s Facebook page said would help participating students “experience the stigma experienced by veiled women in France.”
“It is about raising awareness, opening the debate and giving a voice to women who are often debated in public but rarely heard,” said Laetitia Demaya, one of the organizers.
Philosopher and author Bernard-Henri Levy tweeted: “Hijab Day at Sc Po. When will there ever be a Sharia Day? Stoning? Slavery?”
“It is a provocation and we denounce the religious nature of the event,” said Carla Sasiela, president of the UNI student union. Local.
Her group said the event is a “total contradiction of the values of the Republic and respect for women’s rights”.
Writing on its Facebook page, the student wing of the far-right Front National (FN) criticized an initiative from a “Parisian middle class disconnected from social reality”.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls recently made a controversial statement that he wanted to ban all forms of religious headscarves in French universities.
One woman wrote: “On behalf of all the Algerian women who were murdered for refusing the diktat of the dress code, I want to cry out my revolt against this” day “organized by these same students who are supposed to become the elite of our country”
“This initiative is particularly nauseating as women around the world struggle to get rid of their chains. In Iran, for example, women get acid thrown in their faces if they don’t wear the veil, ”he said.
The university distanced itself from the initiative in a statement on Twitter, saying the fact that it was taking place on campus “should not be interpreted as support.”
Sciences Po University distanced itself from the initiative on Twitter, saying the fact that it is taking place on campus “should not be interpreted as support” (file photo of a woman muslim in hijab)
Sciences Po’s Hijab Day came just days after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he wanted all forms of Muslim headscarves to be banned in universities.
In an interview with the daily Liberation, Prime Minister Valls said France should “protect” French Muslims from extremist ideology.
He said the headscarf, when worn for political reasons, oppresses women and is not “a fashion or consumer item like any other”.
When asked whether the headscarf should be banned in universities, Mr. Valls reportedly said “it should be done, but there are constitutional rules that make this ban difficult”.
Wearing the full veil in public spaces has been prohibited by French law since April 2011.
The 2010 “Law prohibiting concealment of the face in public space” applies not only to full veils or burqas worn by some Muslim women, but to all headgear covering the face, including masks, helmets and balaclavas.
The only exceptions are when ordered otherwise under French law – such as motorcycle helmets while riding or for work requiring the face to be covered for health and safety reasons.
When you deny religious coverage, you are also denying religious freedom.
Student activists in France made a bold statement Wednesday by wearing scarf and declaring Hijab Day at one of the best universities in France, the Institut d’études politiques de Paris. The social project aimed to show solidarity with Muslim women who choose to wear religious blanket and to help students better understand the experiences these women face on a daily basis.
The hijab, a religious symbol for Muslim women, is often stigmatized and negatively connoted in the secular country. Muslim women in foreign countries have repeatedly been made to feel like outsiders when people assume, based on their clothing, that they are oppressed or violent.
Activists were responding to a suggestion by Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who said last week that the headscarf should be banned universities. This is not the first time France has called for a ban on religious blankets – former President Nicolas Sarkozy has banned the Muslim face-on veil of all public places in 2011.
Freedom of religion is protected by French law known as secularism. The law separates Church and State and affirms that religion remains outside the public sphere. Over the past decade, the law has pushed its limits by enacting policies that target Muslims and prevent them from expressing their religion through prayer or wearing the burqa.
Despite having the largest Muslim population in Europe, France has not treated all religions equally and fairly when it comes to the rights of a major religious group.
France’s measures to ban the hijab demonstrate a lack of respect for Muslim culture, religious freedom and free will. Wearing the hijab in a Western country is already a misinterpreted gesture that leads to exclusion and harsh treatment – banning them in universities would completely deny access to a group of people just to express their beliefs.
Students wearing headgear for a day cannot really understand the daily pressures to conform that Muslim women face. But their efforts to support Muslim women in their right to choose what to wear sends a strong message of solidarity and cultural acceptance.
At a time when many Muslims are accused of terrorist attacks they did not commit, the efforts of these activists speak volumes about the importance of unification. The persistent efforts of the French government to rid itself of all public recognition of religion have become an infringement of basic individual rights. Allowing women to wear the hijab does not mean that an institution endorses religion – it further marginalizes Muslim communities in a blind attempt to appear neutral. These types of statements only divide people at a time when they desperately need to be united.
Due to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, anti-Muslim sentiment is increasing in Western Europe. According to Tell MAMA, an NGO that tracks hate crimes against Muslims, the rate of hate crimes tripled in the UK after the Paris 2015 attacks. If it wants to defeat the radical jihadists, France must collaborate with its Muslim allies in a united front. Anti-Muslim sentiment only reinforces the “us” versus “them” mentality, when in reality the secular government and the majority of nonviolent Muslims are fighting the same struggle against acts of terrorism.
By indirectly excluding Muslims from public institutions and by provoking an unnecessary controversial debate, France is not helping to bring its peoples closer together, it is separating them further.
On Wednesday, students were challenging these types of dangerous policies by wearing hijabs and refusing to let fear alienate people because of their religion.
Instead of pushing back Muslims, it would be in France’s interest to treat its Muslim citizens equally and not blame their religion for disrupting the country’s secular values.
A woman’s dress choice shouldn’t be politicized, especially when there is so much more at stake.
Kirsten Wong writes primarily on social justice issues and public policy for The Pitt News