The stereotypical view of Islam in the West has been putting Muslims in the limelight for all the misinformed, wrong reasons. Muslims have been subjected to violence and threats particularly because of the doings of the extremists and it seems as though this tiring ordeal will continue as seen in countless present-day attacks on Muslims all over the world.

Recently, the new ban on the Hijab proposed by the French government to be imposed on girls under the age of 18 and mothers accompanying children on school trips got Muslims disappointed, but definitely not surprised. The French senate voted in favor of “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.” Both amendments still need to pass through the National Assembly before coming into law, but even if it becomes the law, it wouldn’t be surprising. It’s not the first time after all.

France has previously shown off its systematic oppression in the name of secularism many times before. According to the head of the National Observatory of Islamophobia, Abdallah Zekri, there were 235 attacks on Muslims in France in 2020, up from 154 the previous year, a 53% jump. This massive increase in statistics has got everything to do with the backward and Islamophobic mindset of the ones in favor and nothing to do with the Muslims that have been mercilessly targeted.

In February of 2011 Sarkozy (Former President of France) claimed that:

“If you come to France, you have to melt in a single community, which is the national community. If you don´t accept this, you cannot be welcomed in France.”

This sentence, though sugar-coated, renders bare the rotten core. It explains the Islamophobia that pertains in France from the first headscarf ban cases that began in 1989, to now. Now, lets remind ourselves of four times that France showed off its Islamophobia, so loud, so bare, and so disturbingly clear.

One: Save them from the Niqab!

On 11th April 2011, under a decree by the French prime minister, François Fillon, women were banned from wearing the niqab in any public place. You would expect a country whose national motto is “liberty, equality, fraternity” to actually stand by what they say, but this ban couldn’t contradict their motto any more. It seems as though their “liberty” and “equality” are only limited to those they prefer. It is at this point that the quote of Imam Khomeini comes to a person’s mind, when he said:

“Don’t be afraid of the West(ern imperialist governments)! If you go back one step, they will come one step further.”

How aptly put. There were Muslim sisters who didn’t bat an eyelash when they banned the niqab because they simply didn’t wear one, and resorted to the hijab. There were even posts by our very own sisters on Instagram that explained (read: grossly misinformed) that the niqab was not actually a religious covering, rather just a cultural rite passed over to the rest of the world by the Arabs and that the Hijab was enough. Now, the same sisters are left with no choice but to devise up ways to wear their hats and hoodies in a way that it covers them properly. Moral being, don’t step backward when it comes to Islam, and do not allow the imperialist and neocolonialist governments to define your faith and its limits for you.

Two: Cartoons for ‘Freedom of Speech’

In 2012, the French magazine Charlie Hebdo published an edition in which they portrayed a satirical cartoon depicting our Holy Prophet Muhammad (S), following a long tradition of laicity and blasphemy. If this doesn’t scream Islamophobia, then I don’t know what will. Not only did France not take any action regarding this horrific incident, the French president Emmanuel Macron defended them in the name of freedom of speech. There is some amount of a double standard that we see in Charlie Hebdo’s course of work here though, because they did fire one of their employees over concerns of anti-Semitism so all the bare swords seem to be bared at Islam exclusively.

Three: More facial hair, less work opportunities!

In La Rochelle, (Atlantic Coast of France) a man’s employment was terminated by his employer after weeks of harassment for having a beard that was deemed a sign of “religious extremism”. I’m sorry, how does hair on one’s face determine their level of extremism? If this beard was on a Hollywood actor’s face, you would see them promoting his looks everywhere but God forbid, a Muslim man grows a beard. Double-standards much?

Four: Umm… You’re not welcome!

The term “Great Replacement” was popularized by the French author Renaud Camus in his 2011 book Le Grand Remplacement (English: The Great Replacement). This basically identified immigration policies as the main issue affecting the shift in the demographics of France. As a result, this term is becoming increasingly recognized, with white supremacist groups and right-wing politicians now using it to spread their anti-Islamic ideologies in France. The Great Replacement strengthens the fear of Islam through focusing on Muslims as a problem, mobilizing the debate about the need for military intervention. As if Islamophobia already wasn’t widespread, the popularization of this term further spread the disease of Islamophobic attitudes across the country which hampered fundamental rights given to Muslims.

Muslims have been targeted since the very beginning and it’s about time we stand up and recognize that not all that glitters is gold. France may be home to one of the most beautiful landmarks and art museums, but their imperialist and Islamophobic governing strategies and ideologies couldn’t make them any more unattractive. As Shias who are awaiting the Mahdi (A), we must use our platforms and call out every racist and Islamophobic act wherever we are. #BoycottFrenchProducts and strengthen your ability to distinguish between right and wrong. The time is near and we must be active in our intidhaar.

To all the Muslim women in France, you have no idea of how valuable you strength and resistance is, and how proud the rest of us are of you. Keep going, and don’t let them erase you. The hijab is the most precious asset that you could hold near you in these times, so never let it go. May God reward you all and ease your sufferings!

Featured image via Pinterest

About the Author

Zaynab Ali

A servant of God who hopes to aspire those who are struggling with either their faith, their voice, or their identity through her writing. Her passion and thirst for knowledge has led her to delve into everything Ayatollah Murtadha Mutahhari and she's definitely not complaining!

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