The hijab takes center stage in France’s presidential elections and could be banned

The hijab, which has long been controversial in India, is now gaining popularity in political arenas around the world. The hijab took center stage in France’s presidential campaign on Friday, as far-right candidate Marine Le Pen sought to ban them in the country with Western Europe’s largest Muslim population.

She and her opponent Emmanuel Macron, who face a tight April 24 runoff in presidential elections, were approached by hijab-wearing women who questioned why their clothing choices should be tied to politics.

A lady in a hijab approached Le Pen as she navigated among fishmongers and vendors to greet supporters at a farmers’ market in the southern town of Pertuis. “What does the headscarf do in politics? asked the lady.

Photo: France24

Le Pen defended his position, describing the headscarf as a “uniform imposed over time by people who have a radical vision of Islam”. “That’s not true,” the woman replied. “I started wearing the veil when I was an older woman… For me, it’s a sign of being a grandmother.”

On Friday, Macron also got into a heated debate with a woman wearing the hijab on France-Info. He tried to distance himself from Le Pen by saying he would not change any legislation, but he supported the current ban on the hijab in schools as part of France’s secular ideals.

Sara El Attar, the lady, said she was offended by Macron’s past remarks in which he implied that the hijab destabilizes gender relations.

Macron, on the other hand, tried to defend his record. “The hijab issue is not an obsession for me,” Macron said.

Note that Le Pen said that if elected, wearing the Islamic headscarf in public in France should be a crime punishable by a fine imposed by the police, similar to a traffic violation.

Although the hijab is an issue in this election, Macron has also been accused of inciting anti-Muslim prejudice due to his harsh stance on what the government calls “radical Islamism”. Following a wave of incidents linked to radical Islamists in late 2020, Macron implemented a series of countermeasures.

Meanwhile, Macron has harnessed his tenacity to argue that Le Pen’s policies are no different from those of his father, Jean-Marie, and his radical National Front (FN).

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