Sharp: France’s hijab ban is yet another example of not-so-thinly veiled sexism and Islamophobia

Many+people+have+accused+the+French+government+of+Islamophobia+and+sexism+after+the+French+senate+voted+to+ban+those+under+18+from+wearing+the+hijab.[email protected]/ jamesdale10, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Many people have accused the French government of Islamophobia and sexism after the French senate voted to ban those under 18 from wearing the hijab.

By Chloe Sharp, The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science

On Mar. 30, 2021, the French Senate declared a war on Islam by passing a bill banning women under the age of 18 from wearing hijabs in public places and mothers from wearing hijabs on school field trips.

The defense of this bill is to promote religious secularism in the country. However, the wording of the bill stating the “prohibition in the public space of any conspicuous religious sign by minors and of any dress or clothing which would signify inferiority of women over men” tells a different tale.

This “religious secularism” that the Senate claims they are trying to achieve looks a lot like forcing the assimilation of Muslim women in the country and blatant Islamaphobia.

People have been trying to control how women dress for centuries, and not just in France. Even the young women who attend MSMS experience restrictions on what they can or cannot wear because the administration wants to “ensure that the school climate reflects decency, safety, appropriateness, and a serious focus on learning.”

The way women want to dress should be their decision and only their decision. Students wearing shorts more than four inches above the knee isn’t going to take anything away from a learning environment, but banning them from doing so causes female students to feel degraded and indecent for wearing shorts in hot weather. 

It is a trend in modern society for authority figures to feel compelled to save women from themselves by instituting restrictions for them. This could be seen in 2010 when French President Nicholas Sakozy placed a ban on all face coverings, a law most commonly known as the “burqa ban.” Of course, the true colors of this ban were exposed this past year when the country started requiring masks for all residents because of the covid-19 pandemic.  

Religious secularism and religious freedom are not inverses of each other like the French government is suggesting with this bill. Secularism merely means the separation of church and state, not the absence of any part of religion in public spaces like the hijab ban requires. 

Muslim women don’t wear their hijabs to try to influence political decisions or convert people to their religion, and they don’t wear them because someone is forcing them to; they wear them because it is a sacred part of their culture and their religion. 

A hijab ban isn’t going to ‘liberate’ young Muslim girls, it will only ostracize them in French society. Wearing a hijab doesn’t hurt anyone, so why is the French government making such a big fuss over them?

If you need any more evidence as to why the answer to this question is Islamophobia, here it is: Just a few weeks ago, the French National Assembly passed legislation to set the age of sexual consent in France to 15. This means that the French government thinks that at the age of 15, a woman is old enough to decide to consent to sex with an adult, but not old enough to decide to wear a hijab. It doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Anyone who values religious freedom or women’s rights should take issue with this legislation. People should be able to practice their religion in any way they choose as long as it isn’t hurting anybody. What a woman wears is solely her decision, and a sexist, Islamaphobic government with a white-savior complex has no right to take that away from her.

This story was originally published on The Vision MSMS on April 14, 2021.