Source: The Washington Post
PARIS — She is a 19-year-old student union president who never wanted to be a culture warrior. But this is France, and Maryam Pougetoux wore a headscarf on national television.
In the two weeks since her appearance, one cabinet official has accused her of “proselytism” on behalf of the Islamic State; another has chastised her for promoting “political Islam.” Charlie Hebdo, France’s beloved satirical newspaper, depicted her on its cover as a doddering monkey.
According to her detractors, Pougetoux’s offense is that she violated the national creed of “laïcité,” or secularism, which guarantees, among other things, the separation of public institutions and religious organizations.
In the name of secularism — and gender equality — wearing a headscarf, or hijab, has been illegal in French public schools since 2004. Face-covering niqabs and burqas have been banned in public spaces since 2010. And the country was consumed for weeks in 2016 by the question of whether Muslim women should be prohibited from wearing the modest “burkini” to the beach. (The courts struck that one down.)