In March, the French senate voted in favor of the shitstorm that is the ‘separatism bill’. While the overarching goal of this bill was to give the government more power in fighting Islamic radicalization, its laws also deal with the policing of women’s bodies. For those who missed it, the bill states – among other things – that girls under 18 are no longer allowed to wear a hijab publicly and mothers who wear hijabs cannot accompany their children on school trips. The thing that enrages me about this decision (besides the obvious xenophobia) is that the underlying notion for all of this is the protection of women. Apparently, in 2021 we still believe that women in Islamic cultures have no will of their own and are constantly oppressed by the men in their environment. I am not saying that this can not be the case, but the same holds for women of all other religions and races. Rather than connecting with their Muslim population (France has the largest Muslim community in Europe), and actually empowering the women in that community, the French senate let itself be lead by extreme right parties that want nothing more than to take away women’s rights. If the situation weren’t so serious, it would almost be funny how governments all around the world seem so intent on supporting women by taking their choices away. At least be open about your preferred method of oppression and do not act so sanctimonious, please. All of this nicely aligns with the white savior complex that was discussed often in reaction to the surge in the BLM movement last summer. Minority ethnic women are always considered to be oppressed, and the only way they can be saved is through White men. Oh, I wonder where we would be without men...
Although this bill might seem shocking – it certainly was to me – islamophobia has been rampant in France for ages. During its colonial period, France occupied many countries in the Middle East and Africa where a majority-Muslin population lived. The drive to remove Islamic symbols and distinctly “other” them from what the republic of France stood for started there. In 2011, it was actually the first country in which the niqab was banned in any public place. Macron (the French president) also stated that he considered the hijab to not be in line with French ideals. It seems really contradictory how 5.7 million people living in France are not ‘French’ enough for their own president. This first ban and public opinion sparked a debate on ‘the place of Muslims in Christian France’. I could talk about this for years, but really, we have to debate whether people belong to a country? Last time I checked, country borders were fictions that we collectively believe in, but that is something to discuss another time. Another striking thing about this specific bill is that it considers girls aged 15 or older capable and mature enough to have consensual sex, but apparently they are only able to decide what they want to wear when they are 18. Make this make sense. If you say you want to fight inferiorisation of women and stop practices that take away their dignity, please don’t make it illegal for them to choose to wear a hijab.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité. But only if you adhere to French ideals: being white, preferably Christian, and only wearing headscarves for OOTD purposes.
And for all my women reading this: none of us are truly free until we are all free.
Hijab: a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women.
White savior complex: white savior refers to western people going in to “fix” the problems of struggling nations or people of color without understanding their history, needs, or the region’s current state of affairs. White savior complex is the belief that western people have that they are the only ones able to solve those problems.
Niqab: a veil worn by some Muslim women in public, covering all of the face apart from the eyes. (Not to be confused with burqa, which covers the entire face with gauze to see through).
OOTD: an abbreviation of 'Outfit Of The Day' usually used as a caption for pictures of outfits or models.
This article was inspired by the Instagram posts/stories by astagfirolah (@astagfirolah), please check her out if you like social justice issues like this!
Lots of information in this article came from this article written by doctor Pragya Agarwal: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/france-hijab-burqa-ban-muslim-b1827965.html