Young Muslims Saying My Hijab My Choice Because French Politicians Are Obsessed With The Veil

A woman wearing a hijab walks past a store in Istanbul, Turkey. | Representative image | Photographer: Kerem Uzel | Bloomberg

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The Council of Europe, a human rights body, was only trying to help. They recently launched a campaign to criticize headscarf bans in Europe. The campaign, which appears to be a largely online initiative, featured slogans like #LetHerChoose. At least one of the graphics showed a Muslim woman as a paper doll wearing a headscarf; around her are various other outfits to choose from. Another hashtag used by the tweets called for celebrating diversity and respecting the hijab. Yet another shows a European woman of African descent and the slogan #MyHijabMyChoice.

According to the Council of Europe, the slogan came from several online workshops of the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations. According to him, “everyone should be free to wear what they want. Muslim women do not have the right to wear the hijab and are excluded from the workplace and education.

This is certainly true of France. Since France’s initial headscarf ban in 2004, the country has been obsessed with clothing, with zeal equal only to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The latter state wants to force women to wear the veil; France wants to force them out of the veil. The present moment is no different. As the Council of Europe’s Twitter campaign approaches, French politicians have made the veil almost the centerpiece of their policy.

Éric Zemmour, far-right television presenter and big favorite to challenge Emmanuel Macron for the presidential election, is an example. A few weeks ago, Zemmour visited a neighborhood around Paris that has a large Muslim population. There he got into an argument with a Muslim woman and asked her to “prove” that she was “really free” by removing the headscarf in front of him. The woman did as he asked, but of course Muslim women in France can never prove that they choose to wear the headscarf. Zemmour got what he wanted: a provocative viral news clip that ensured the news cycle in France was all about him for next week.

Read also: Mohammad Iqbal, who wrote ‘saare Jahan se achha’, made modernity a bad word for Muslims

It’s no surprise, then, that even a small Twitter campaign highlighting the silliness and racism represented by the ban could piss off a number of French politicians. A few days after the campaign started, some of them also took to Twitter. Eric Zemmour, the man who “hit the headscarf”, denounced the Muslim faith and called the campaign an “enemy of the truth”.

Marine Le Pen, the original right-wing prima donna of the French political establishment, was not far behind. She called the campaign “scandalous” and “inappropriate”, given that the French state is fighting for the right to denounce it. The French left, whose only point of agreement with the French far right is a collective hatred of Muslims, also denounced the campaign. As French criticism of the campaign gained momentum and sparked controversy, a Belgian member of the European Parliament intervened, saying he was “shocked” and that he would “always oppose” the initiative, which used the European freedoms to enslave women.

For its part, the Council of Europe has tried to remain strong. Some opposition would probably have been expected; after all, France’s obsession with the headscarf and its increasingly draconian measures is nothing new to anyone. However, when French Minister of Youth Saira El Haïry entered the conversation, arguing that one of the posters, which showed a divided image of a woman without a headscarf and the other party wearing it, seemed to encourage Muslims to wear the headscarf. , the Council of Europe admitted defeat and simply withdrew the campaign. They promised to have a better thought-out campaign next time.

It’s not just scarves. Let us not forget that at the beginning of the year the French government said it could investigate academics and professors who teach texts on critical race theory. Critical Race Theory is the study of history, society, etc. through the prism of race. Born out of the American civil rights movement and recently energized by the murder of George Floyd, his project is to study race as a social construct and to show how economic and legal policies are influenced by the views of the dominant social group, this who would be white person.

The French Minister of Higher Education soared when she came across a particular concept linking Islamists and leftists, and announced that all researchers and academics who teach concepts like this will be the subject of a investigation by his department.

Since then, thousands of academics have signed a petition denouncing this decision of the minister, stressing that it goes against the very French principle of “freedom”. It is not known whether these investigations into academics threatened by the Minister of Education are ongoing. It is clear, however, that many French politicians are extremely nervous about critical race theory ideas influencing the development of Muslim identity which sees itself as part of a racialized otherness instigated by whites. Such a reformulation would position the Muslims of France as the oppressed in the French context and the state itself as an instrument of oppression with a racist agenda.

It is a deplorable affair. Not so long ago, the French were pioneers, home to avant-garde ideas, art and philosophy. It all seems over now, as many on the left and right see bans and investigations as a way to maintain white supremacy. As many Muslim countries have learned, bans never work. The situation in France will probably get worse before it gets better, but the writing is on the wall; #myhijabmychoice was an idea proposed by young Muslims in student organizations across Europe. They are ready for change; bans can pause forward momentum, but can never stop it.

The writer is a lawyer and teaches constitutional law and political philosophy. Opinions are personal.

The article first appearance on Dawn’s site. It was published with permission.

Read also: Some clerics think they are above the Koran. It makes Indian Muslims sectarian and backward

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