Living in a culturally diverse society gives us many opportunities to be more expressive of ourselves and our backgrounds. Displaying our pride and representing who we are without being discriminated against for our beliefs is a right that not everyone is allowed to exercise. A few weeks ago, the French Senate passed a law stating that Muslim girls under the age of 18 were prohibited from wearing the hijab in public. The law went into effect on Tuesday, March 30th.
Hijab is the Arabic word for the headscarf worn by many Muslim women that represent their devotion to God. In Islam, they are expected to dress modestly when they are in public. In 2010, France also banned the use of burkhas (outer garment) and niqabs (facial veil), also used to cover most of the skin and face.
The National Assembly (the lower one of the two houses of French Parliament) has yet to approve the proposed law before it is executed, but according to experts, there is almost “no chance” of this happening. The French government is in denial that Islamophobia even exists, and indirectly says so in the new bill. France claims to be fighting discrimination when in reality, it is promoting secularism which is a direct violation of human rights targeting the Muslim community. Due to the pandemic, face masks have been enforced, yet wearing similar coverings as a religious duty is regarded as a crime. The government defends this idea by saying that wearing Islamic attire is oppressive. However, in Islam, women are not obligated to wear hijabs, it is a choice made by the woman herself. If she is not forced to put it on, she should not be forced to take it off simply because she is underage; what is oppressive is the law itself.
To forbid young women from publicly representing their religion would be legalizing Islamophobia and projecting hatred on the 3.4 million Muslims living in France. With so much negativity clouding our world today, it’s difficult to find light in the situation. However, we can help raise awareness among the people around us. Several petitions have already been written against the hijab ban in a matter of a few weeks. The freedom of Muslim minorities is being stripped away from them, leaving them feeling attacked and deprived of their personal rights. Faith can not be determined by age as it is a decision that only concerns ourselves as individuals.