Young Muslim women protest proposed French ban on Hijab
French senators have proposed a bill to deny Muslim women the freedom to do wear the hijab in public spaces, fueling outrage and online protests.
The amendment to a so-called 'anti-separatism' bill, which applies to girls under 18, has prompted an online protest under the hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab (#PasToucheAMonHijab) that went viral beyond French borders.
"It's part of my identity. To force me to remove it would be a humiliation," said Mariem Chourak, a 16-year-old devout Muslim. "I cannot understand why they would want to pass a law that discriminates."
France is home to Europe's largest Muslim minority.
The place of religion and religious symbols worn in public is a long-running matter of controversy in France, underscoring the country’s moral and cultural deterioration.
France prohibited the wearing of Islamic headscarves in state schools in 2004. In 2010, it banned the niqab, the full-face Islamic veil, in public places such as streets, parks, public transport, and administrative buildings.
The amendment pertains to all religious symbols, though observers say it targets Muslims.
A group of young women is running the #PasToucheAMonHijab campaign from the living rooms of their families' flats.
They have drawn support from social media influencers, a U.S. lawmaker and Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American woman to wear a hijab while competing in the Olympics, among others.
"(The politicians) want our emancipation, they want to save us from this imaginary oppression, but it is they who are oppressing us," said medical student Mona el Mashouly, 25, in her home city of Strasbourg.
French President Emmanuel Macron has carried out an anti-Islamic policy since his election.
The conservative-dominated Senate added the amendment, as well as two more that would prevent mothers from wearing a hijab when accompanying children on school trips and ban the full-body burkini swimsuit.
A joint committee from parliament's two chambers will debate the amendments and they may yet be scratched from the bill.
But for 22-year-old Hiba Latreche the damage is done. "(It is) symptomatic of the constant policing of women's bodies, choices and beliefs that we have in France," she said, "as well as the instrumentalization of Muslim women.
Many Muslim women around the world are working to show that hijab is empowering and are challenging the notion that the Islamic covering is a sign of oppression
February 1 is World Hijab Day, an annual event founded in 2013. Event organizers describe it as an opportunity for non-Muslim women to experience the hijab
The event takes place in 140 countries worldwide. Its stated purpose is to encourage women of all religions and backgrounds to wear and experience the hijab.
Hijab is a veil worn by most Muslim women in the presence of any male outside of their immediate family, which usually covers the head and chest, and sometimes the face.
The term refers to any head, face, or body covering worn by Muslim women that conforms to Islamic standards of modesty.
"For me, it is a religious obligation, but it also represents my identity as a Muslim woman and a symbol of empowerment for women," said Laura Abdul Fattah, an ambassador for World Hijab Day in Australia.