By Melissa del Carmen Gomez
Image via DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP Getty Images
Living in France for three years of my life, I have experienced many beautiful things, yet have witnessed many injustices that French media chooses to neglect. I have seen firsthand the way Muslim children and women are treated in France, and I always spoke out against racism. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on a young Muslim girl’s face when a French woman came up to her and told her, “You are in France now. You must speak French, and you must not wear your hijab.” Personally, I feel like France is heavily romanticized for its countryside, beaches, and of course the city of Paris and fashion. But under that glamour is a dark reality of racism and a long history of colonialism that is never brought up.
On March 30th, the French Senate voted towards and approved an amendment making it illegal for girls under the age of 18 in the country to wear hijabs. Another amendment is being discussed that would ban the burqini at public pools and beaches. France is supposedly a secular country and accepting of all religions. However, President Emmanuel Macron wants to fight against the “separatism” that is happening within the country. The French Senate discussed that they voted in favor of 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.”
French-Muslim women on Instagram and other forms of social media spoke out against the approvals of these laws and discussed how the French government was directly targeting and attacking Muslims. The hashtag #PasToucheAMonHijab was created and shared multiple times. Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad wrote “This is what happens when you normalize anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim hate speech, bias, discrimination, and hate crimes—Islamophobia written into law. May Allah protect our sisters.”
Image via Screengrab/Twitter
Historically, France has a history of racism towards Muslims. Since 1989, girls were not allowed to go to their middle schools due to wearing headscarves. It has been illegal in the country for schoolgirls to wear the hijab at school since 2004. In December of last year, to tackle this so-called issue of “separatism” in France, 76 mosques and 2,600 places of Muslim worship was targeted as a threat to the French Republic values and were temporarily closed.
Image via Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images
The hijab ban is an attack towards Muslim women and is modern-day cultural assimilation and colonization. Why should a white government be telling how women of color should dress? French-Tunisian fashion contributor Taqwa Bint Ali told Vogue Arabia, “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. 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.” Taqwa Bint Ali is currently working on improving and enriching Muslim communities in France from women and improving the image of the hijab in France.
Although these laws that were approved are not set in stone, the recent attitude of the French government and the microaggressions towards the Muslim population in France is evident and should be questioned. Liberté, égalité, fraternité, French for "liberty, equality, fraternity" is the national motto of France. I honestly stare at the words and question the integrity of France. Are they following their own morals? Where is the liberty and equality that they have promised? To learn more, I recommend you follow #PasToucheAMonHijab on Twitter or Instagram. It’s time for France to own up to its racist morals, apologize for its past actions, and apologize to the Muslim community in France. Let women of color wear whatever they want.
Written by writer Melissa del Carmen Gomez