French Senate threatens religious freedom by voting to ban the hijab


By Michelle Funes

The French Senate sent a hijab ban to the National Assembly on Tuesday, which could force Muslim girls to hide public displays of religious attire.

The French Senate has proposed the “bill on separatism” which would strengthen its rules concerning the practice of Islam and prohibit the wearing of the hijab to women under the age of eighteen. This ban does not apply only to women under the age of eighteen, as it would prevent mothers wearing the hijab from joining their children on school trips and women from wearing the hijab at university.

The bill was passed in the French Senate on February 16, 2021, with a vote of 347 to 151 with 65 instances refusing the vote. Much of the bill that has to do with the hijab ban is to ensure the “dignity: of the people of France but specifically of women.” This part of the bill would prohibit the use of the “virginity certificate” as a means of ensuring virginity for young Muslim girls. It would also crack down on any measure that could undermine the “dignity” of women, which on March 30 included a ban on the hijab.

However, according to Jean Yves Camu, a political scientist, this is a political decision taken by the right-wing conservative political party in France. Camu also says the likelihood of these laws being passed in the National Assembly, France’s preeminent parliamentary chamber, is slim to none and is a ploy to win back voters.

“The conservative right sees that some of its former voters have moved to the far right, so they are trying to win back those voters,” said the president of Observatory of political radicalism. “If they want to regain these voices, they must propose legislation at least as xenophobic”.

The “Separatism Bill” began with several different provisions before being amended to include a ban on the hijab. This included compulsory school attendance before the age of three to avoid home schooling. This is important because it primarily targeted girls believed to attend denominational schools where classes consisted primarily of prayer.

Another provision cracked down on the online dissemination of a person’s personal information when their life was in danger with a fine of around € 45,000. This provision specifically concerns the beheading of a French college professor by a radical Islamist, after he shared a caricature of Muhammad. His personal information was leaked online and ultimately led to his death.

The bill was easily adopted by the French Senate after this tragedy. The bill hopes to fight Islamic radicalism and strengthen French values.

France is not the first country to propose laws like these, as Switzerland voted in March to ban face coverings such as the burqa and niqab. These laws were proposed by the Swiss right-wing party, the Swiss People’s Party.

Although Switzerland contains only a small population of Muslims, this is still a major reaction to the Islamic radicalism that has occurred in Europe and to the willingness of these countries to promote their secularism.

These countries are determined to want to maintain their secularism and prevent women from having their freedom deprived of religion. However, many of these laws target Islam and no other religion. This has raised a lot of concern among the Muslim community in these countries, as they feel their religious freedom is under threat.

Michelle Funes is a sophomore at UC Davis. She is currently a major in English and hopes to double the major with communications. She is originally from Southern California, specifically Covina.

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