French Army Asks Citizens To Enlist — But No Muslim Headscarves, Please

Majda Belaroui, 21, answered the call to volunteer for the French military reserves following the recent terrorist attack in Nice. But Majda, a Muslim, refused to remove her headscarf and hijab, as required under a French law that prohibits displays of religion in government institutions.

Courtesy of Majda Belaroui

After the July 14 terrorist attack in Nice, the French interior minister called on “all willing French patriots” to help defend the country by volunteering for the military’s reserves.

Two sisters, Majda and Amina Belaroui, French Muslims of Moroccan heritage, heeded the call in the aftermath of the Bastille Day attack, when a Tunisian truck driver mowed down crowds of spectators, killing 84 and wounding hundreds.

Majda, 21, and Amina, 24, are both university students who live in Nice, on the French Riviera. They pair French fashion with traditional Muslim dress, sporting wide-brimmed sun hat and headscarf ensembles.

The Monday morning following the attack, the third major terrorist rampage in the past 18 months, young men and high school boys trickled through the gates of Nice’s military recruitment center. So did Majda. Wearing a hat and headscarf, she walked past soldiers guarding the gate with weapons across their chests.

She was there to sign up for the “operational reserves,” comprising both former soldiers and civilians with no military background. She wasn’t interested in holding a gun. She just wanted to see how she could help, and set an example as a Muslim amid the growing fears over radical Islam.

“I want to show,” she said, “that I am not like that.”

Amina Belaroui, 24, Majda’s sister, also volunteered for the military reserves. She didn’t want to remove her scarf and hijab but reluctantly agreed to do so. “I really want to commit and help people,” she said.

Courtesy of Amina Belaroui

A law against religious displays

The receptionist told her she must take off her hijab to enter the recruitment center.

French law prohibits people from displaying their religion in government-run buildings, including public schools, to maintain secularism in the public sphere. It’s a fundamental tenet of the country, stretching back more than a century as part of an effort to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church. But the old concept of secularism is now rubbing up against France’s new efforts to integrate its Muslim population, the largest in Europe.

France has succeeded, in many cases. In Nice, Muslims are an integral part of the landscape. They, too, were on the promenade watching fireworks along with their French compatriots on Bastille Day, the most French day of the year, when the crowd came under attack. Nearly a third of the victims of the attack were Muslims, according to a Muslim community group.

But some Muslims in France believe prohibitions against wearing religious clothing in government venues are actually targeted specifically at them, sending a message that Muslim culture is unwelcome in France.

“Although France has managed to integrate many immigrants and their descendants, those it has left on the sidelines are more embittered than their British or German peers, and many feel insulted in their Muslim or Arab identity,” sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar wrote recently in The New York Times. “Laïcité, France’s staunch version of secularism, is so inflexible it can appear to rob them of dignity.”

It poses a dilemma for people like the Belaroui sisters, who want to stay true to both flag and faith.

Minutes after entering the recruitment center, Majda walked out, unwilling to remove her hijab when asked.

“If I weren’t Muslim, I think I would be so afraid of these people,” she said, referring to Muslims. That’s precisely why she came to volunteer, hijab proudly wrapped around her head.

“For me, it’s discouraging. We want to show that we are against this violence,” she said, adding, “We are demotivated.”

Her sister faced the same choice

Her sister, Amina, a third-year engineering student, faced the same difficult decision.

Amina had already been to the recruitment center a week prior to the Nice attack and went back again, by herself, more determined following the attack.

Both times, she agreed to take off her hijab in front of the uniformed men, though she really didn’t want to. She said it felt like undressing in public.

“I think the ends justify the means. That’s why I took it off,” Amina said in her flawless English. “I really want to commit and help people, and also try to give another image of Muslim girls, and Muslims in general.”

Anger is boiling over in Nice, which leans conservative. At the memorial ceremony for the victims, some residents argued with Muslim citizens. In the days after the attack, some in the city voiced their support for the National Front, France’s far-right political party, which has used anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Amina hopes joining the military reserves while she finishes her engineering degree can help change minds in France. Or, at the very least, it can help change the minds of French Muslim girls like her.

“Maybe it will encourage other girls to do something they didn’t think they could do before,” she said. “Maybe it will change things.”


3 replies

  1. It is illogical if woman has to cover her whole body if she live in not desert country like United states or Europe etc.
    Unfortunately most of women around the world have been deceiving by Saudi’s clerics who live in desert since century.

    The ancient Arab tradition, women are as second class in Arab society still be upheld by Arab people from one generation to the next generation. They feel proud of their tradition.Those who do not follow their ancient Arab tradition, accused infidel.

    Allah (al Quran ) have revealed unto you ( Muhammad saw) in order that you might lead mankind out of the depths of darkness into light QS 14;1
    The ancient Arab tradition feel shame if his wife give a girl baby as describe in Al Quran QS 16;58
    When one of them is given the good news of a female child, his face becomes gloomy and he is choked with grief.QS 16:58.

    The ancient Arab tradition treat women as slave as describe in Al Quran.
    And do not compel your maids (slaves) to prostitution – if they wish to observe chastity – in order that you may seek the temporary benefit of the worldly life. If one compels them, then after their being compelled, Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful. QS 24: 33. QS 23-4-6

    The ancient Arab tradition treat female inequality with male, female will receive half inheritance than male as describe in Al Quran.

    Allah directs you concerning your children: for a male there is a share equal to that of two females. QS 4:11.

    The ancient Arab tradition a husband can beat his wife if his wife reject to have sexuality with him.

    Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allâh has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allâh and to their husbands), and guard in the husband’s absence what Allâh orders them to guard As to those women on whose part you see ill¬conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them, but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allâh is Ever Most High, Most Great (34) (QS.4:34).

    The ancient Arab tradition woman can not be a leader or imam in Mosque as describe in Al Quran;

    Men are the protectors / leader and maintainers of women, because Allâh has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means.QS 4:34.

    The ancient Arab tradition who live in heat desert and in order woman can not be abducted or be kidnapped by unknown man, women have to cover whole her body with cloth as described in Al Quran.

    O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e.screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known so as not to be annoyed. And Allâh is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. QS 33;59 QS 24;31

    Therefore in the ancient Arab tradition woman is forbidden to go outside of her house without accompanied by her brother or husband—-forbidden to drive a car till today—–forbidden to sing a song on TV or at public place—-forbidden to get good education as well male does—-forbidden shake hand with a man—forbidden to sit side by side with man—forbidden to walk with a man—–forbidden to be a leader or imam in mosque in society—-forbidden to work in office with men—-in other word woman have to cover her whole body or wear burqa, veil or hijab. Woman have to stay home daylong to raise her kids. Woman do not have the same freedom as male does.
    Modern interpretation on 21st century, based on Al Quran that all God’s laws related to worldly affair can be changed QS 3:159, QS 42; 38-39 or reformed according to development of science and human culture in 21st Century.

    So women do not feel guilty if she does not want to wear Burqa, Hijab, or Veil.

    If the existing athourity ask you you or citizen, NOT to wear hijab or Burqa, or Niqab at public place you as good Muslim have to obey the existing authourity, Allah will forgive you. Because Allah command all citizen have to obey the rule of land where you live in. Quran;

    QURAN you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.QS 4;59
    HADITS.Listen and obey your authority, though he struck your back and take your wealth force.
    Everyone must obey the existing authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God.Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered .Roman 13:1-22)

    Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves . QS .13:11. (Muslim for Reform )

    And such are the Parables We set forth for mankind, but only those understand them who have Knowledge. QS 29; (43).

    If you refuse to learn, you are hurting yourself. If you accept correction, you will become wiser. Proverb of Prophet Dawud.

    Women do not feel quilty or sinful if you do not want to wear Hijab,Burqa or niqab
    Women have to obey the existing authority law. do not feel sinful, you will be sinful if you reject the existing authority.


    Wassalamu’alikum–all love

  2. And keep reminding, because reminding benefits the believers. QS. 51;55.
    Headscarves prevent women to take a part of sport and International competition.
    Islam is Religion of Logic and Scientific.
    It is not for any person to believe, except by the Leave of Allâh, and He will put the wrath on those who does not use his mind QS 10:. (100)
    And such are the Parables We set forth for mankind, but only those understand them who have Knowledge. QS 29;(43)

    Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves . QS .13:11. (Muslim for Reform )

    Family of King Abdullah, Jordan and President Syria Mr Asaad ( Muslim Shia) do not wear headscraft any more. They are reaal islamic reformer who live in Modren time.

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