Source: Abdul Ghany Jahangeer Khan: Central French Desk, United Kingdom
On 17 November 2013, the President of the French Republic François Hollande met Muhammad Sharif Odeh, the leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the Holy Land.
Muhammad Sharif Odeh is the leader of several thousand Muslims of the Ahmadiyya school of thought, which has its center in Haifa.
He presented a letter to the President addressing the debate on the Islamic veil in France, including proposals on this topic from the Worldwide Spiritual Head of the Ahmadiyya Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad.
His letter is as follows:
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Peace be with you. I hope you are in good health and I pray that you have the good fortune to always act for the greater good of France and the world at large. Let me turn to the question of the veil in France, with reference to the article of Law No. 2010-1192 dated 11 October 2010 that banned the wearing of the full veil. Indeed, I wish to draw your attention to the consequences of such legislation and debates. It is clear that the law should not interfere with the religious freedom of citizens when the exercise of this freedom does not harm others, particularly in the case of the veil. Indeed, it is difficult to understand how a woman could harm others through the simple act of covering her head and face in a way that allows her identification.
You are aware of the fact that such laws only increase stigmatisation and intolerance, and for this reason French Muslims are developing an inferiority complex. This does not facilitate social cohesion, but instead promotes discriminatory behaviour.
We observe, Mr. President, that extensive interference with individual liberties encourages discrimination and hostility, especially as the scope of the above-mentioned law has not been limited to persons wearing the full veil but has spread to affect people simply wearing the Islamic headscarf. It becomes very difficult to live in such a society.
Indeed, as has recently been pointed out by Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Spiritual Head of the International Ahmadiyya Muslim community, before an assembly of parliamentarians in Great Britain, when we see that European winters force non-Muslim women to veil themselves to protect themselves from the cold, any law banning the veil appears to be ridiculous.
Mr. President, secularism, if it is to be implemented effectively, must necessarily be based on cohesion and tolerance. In a word: the law must be flexible. I am hopeful that you will prevent legislators in France from promulgating laws against such a harmless act as wearing the veil, and that you will succeed in promoting tolerance and thus restore peace and harmony in French society.
Kindly receive, Mr. President, the expression of my respectful greetings and the assurance of my sincere prayers.
Wishing you peace,
Muhammad Sharif Odeh
Leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the Holy Land