On March 30th, the French senate voted to stop women under the age of 18 from publicly wearing any sort of religious clothing that is only worn by women. The bill favors the “prohibition in the public space of any conspicuous religious sign by minors and of any dress or clothing which would signify an interiorization of women over men.” While the exact wording doesn’t explicitly state it, this is a direct attack on Muslim women.
During adolescence, young Muslim women may choose to begin wearing a hijab to cover their hair. This newest ban targeting Muslim women as a part of the Sepratist Bill. While the French government claims the bill exists to promote secularism — a separation of state and religion — it feels less like a way to promote individualism and more like forced assimilation.
It’s not just the hijab ban for young girls that’s so infuriating. Mothers who wear hijabs wouldn’t be able to chaperone field trips either. I don’t know about how things are in France, but we know it’s hard to find parents to volunteer for field trips. So they’re going to exclude willing volunteers because they choose to wear a hijab. It is beyond comprehension to me. If a mother wants to, and can be an active participant in her child’s education, why would you use her religious choice to bar her from doing so? That’s not fair at all.
Additionally, burkinis would be banned at public swimming pools. That is just as confusing to me. A woman wears a burka to keep modest. Why would the government want to force her to expose parts of her body she chooses not to expose? What gives them the fucking right?
This hijab ban is the just the latest attack on the freedom of Muslim women in France. In 2010, President Nicholas Sakozy placed a ban on all face coverings, which include the burqa and niqab. While things like hoods are also banned, you can’t say this doesn’t disproportionately target Muslim women. A UN committee stated that the niqab ban is a violation of human rights in a 2018 ruling. “[R]ather than protecting fully veiled women, [the ban] could have the opposite effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalizing them,” the committee concluded.
With this hijab for young girls, the French government thinks they’re doing a good thing. They believe they’re saving hijabi girls from being forced into doing something they don’t want to. And that’s incredibly admirable, but for many young girls, wearing a hijab is a choice. It’s admirable that they’re trying to fight for young women’s rights, but this isn’t the way to go about it. It’s incredibly short sighted to say the least.
Honestly, the whole idea goes beyond this weird obsession with French nationalism. It actually feels very white savior-y, and that’s something that’s important to acknowledge. The French government is basically saying that they know what’s best, and young hijabi girls need to be told what is safe for them to do. The government is just trying to save them from themselves. And how in the world can that be wrong?
Well, that’s the thing — the white, French government telling young girls of color who wear a hijab they can’t wear them is not the flex they think it is. Mainly because it doesn’t feel like French nationalism as much as forced assimilation. That would be bad enough, but to do it under the guise of protecting young girls feels really fucking slimy. You can’t in one breath say that you’re promoting a separating of state and religion and then have the state tell you that you can’t practice all the parts of your religion. It’s either one or the other — you can’t have it both ways and expect people to be okay with it.
“There is a real infantilization of Muslim women. We live in a society where women wearing the hijab are prevented from working, from doing sports, from singing on a TV show, and from accompanying children on a school outing,” French-Tunisian fashion contributor Taqwa Bint Ali told Vogue Arabia. “All these polemics and laws that have a desire to ‘liberate’ women push these women to stay home. It is very ironic when the clichés perceive us as women who do not leave the house and do not work because of male authority when in reality, it is the government that wants to erase us from society.”
I don’t know how people can’t see that this will do active harm. A hijab ban will not save anyone — it will make young Muslim women retreat further into the depths of society. By telling them they don’t have freedom to practice their religion in the manner they see fit, the French government is telling them they don’t matter. And that they will never be a real part of French society.
Could you imagine living in a country that openly and continuously denies you any kind of rights? Why would you want to contribute to the culture of your oppressors? The ban is only ensuring that Muslim women give up their religion to be French, whatever that means. Practicing their religion brings them a sense of comfort, community and belonging. Does being French do that? Not likely, considering they have no problem oppressing people.
If you need additional proof that the hijab ban is nothing more than religious oppression, look no further. The National Assembly recently passed a bill changing the age of sexual consent. With this change, the age of consent will now be 15, which is ridiculously young. But what the French government is saying is that a 15 year-old girl is perfectly capable of consenting to sex, but not to making the religious choice of wearing a hijab. Make it make sense. Well you can’t, because it doesn’t.
How can you say that they have the cognitive ability to make a choice about sex at a young age, but somehow religion is just too much for them to comprehend? It is the most ass backward thing I’ve heard this week.
Most young Muslim women aren’t in need of being saved from their religion. They’re well aware and perfectly capable of making their own choices about how to practice. If France wants all of their citizens to denounce parts of themselves for the sake of French solidarity, they need to rethink their strategy. Because instituting a hijab ban for young girls isn’t going to make them feel anymore French. It’s only going to isolate them because of their religious choices.
No one should have to choose between two different parts of who they are. Because they’re being told that one is better than the other, and while it may seem that there isn’t a right choice, there is. France needs to realize that they’re not saving young Muslim women from the oppression of Islam. They’re actually introducing them to the fear of their home country.