‘My body, my choice’ – French Muslim women speak out about headscarves


Hijabi girls in front of Eiffel Tower in Paris. Suggested reading: Hijab By Choice versus Hijab by Coercion?   The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles about modest dressing and Hijab

Source: The Local Fr

By Ingri Bergo

Arguments over Muslim women wearing headscarves surface fairly regularly in France. As the Muslim community again hit the headlines we speak to the French women who wear the hijab about how it feels to have your clothing made the object of national scrutiny.

It’s a recurrent topic in France. In October, it was a mother wearing a headscarf on a school trip. Last spring, it was a popular sports store’s launch of the ‘running hijab’. In 2016, it was the ‘burkini’ (a total-body swimsuit).

Each time, the outrage over a piece of clothing worn by some Muslim women spiralled into a near existentialist debate in France: Did these women’s dresscode breach with the principle of secularism at the heart of the French state?

“Every time, it’s our belonging or exclusion to society that is really being discussed,” said Hania Chalal, a 26-year-old student in Strasbourg, who leads the union Muslim Students in France (Etudiants Musulmans de France, EMF).

Hania is French. She grew up in Strasbourg, and felt “no pressure” from her parents to wear the headscarf.

“I wore it quite late, compared to other girls,” she said.

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16 replies

  1. In this article, Guénif said, “by wearing the headscarf, these women refuse to let themselves be dictated by the French Republic. As a result, they are rendered eternally suspicious.”

    France being a member of the UN, should abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In Article 18, it’s written that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. To manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.

    According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Muslim women have the right to practice their religion. They should be able to dress how they want to and should not be viewed as suspicious. They should not be dictated by the French Republic as to how they can dress because that is not freedom.

  2. This is an ongoing issue. Freedom has its limits. We are not automatically free to do as we want, we have to live in accordance with the laws of the country we reside in. We cannot walk naked on the street, we would be arrested. Christian women have traditionally used a head covering, these have changed over the course of time, and now are rarely to be seen, apart for protection from the weather, or occasional special occasions. The Queen is frequently seen with a head scarf when out to protect her hair. Such head scarfs were popular until several decades ago. The hijab is only a step removed from wearing the face covering, which is not in accordance with Western values. Muslims should adapt to the country they chose to live in. The hijab is an ancient Abrahamic tradition, a variation of which is still practiced also by orthodox Jews, as well as some Christian groups. The reason for that is questionable, but is mainly to keep women under the control of, or from, dominant men.

    • I am surprised that you as a lady still write that …’but is mainly to keep women under the control of dominant men’. All Muslim ladies that I know are wearing the hijab because they want to. They would object greatly if I ‘instructed’ them to take it off. Ask the hijab ladies ! How many of them will say that her husband is forcing them? (I am not saying there are none, there must be some I suppose, just in ‘my circle’ there are none).

  3. My hijab protects my from all evil eyes. And as a proud muslim woman this is only my choice to choose what is right for me and I am proudly enjoying my freedom by wearing hijab.

  4. I’m surprised that in this day and age, living in free and progressive societies, how a woman chooses to dress is still a topic that is discussed and debated. Leave the women alone, and let them exercise their freedom to choose what they wear! Governments and nations should be more concerned about bigger pressing issues like climate change and how to contain the spread of deadly diseases etc., rather than wasting time on dictating what a woman can or can not wear.

  5. I love wearing my hijab, it makes me feel empowered and confident. I love how women are doing what they feel like and are supporting each other. For many years we have witnessed how the worldly ideologies and laws are constructed in such a way that contribute to subordination of women. A female journalist doing interviews in House of Representatives was fired for wearing “sleeveless dress” and here we are constantly mortified and made to feel embarrassed for covering our bodies. A woman is humiliated for covering and not covering herself, this shows the issue is not about clothes but it’s just hateful attitude towards women.

  6. I know of men who have asked their wives not to wear the hijab when they married, and others who have asked their wives to wear the hijab, often young women who had not worn one before, but felt under obligation to please their husbands. Others are under pressure from their families and communities. But more recently the hijab seems to have also become a fashion statement , and/or one of defiance. I would still like for someone to tell me what the logic is in having hair hidden, as well as the Abrahamic origins, The fact that the Mother Mary is often quoted as wearing a hijab is only stating a fact that that was the dress of the women at that time, but the world is constantly changing, and along with that dress changes too. There are Muslim women who wear Western clothes, and what is wrong with that? It’s a case of wearing appropriate clothes for a situation. Should I not be expected to comply with the dress standards of Saudi Arabia, or any other orthodox Muslim country?

    • Im surprised to see that such discrimination and laws still exists in out “free” society. Freedom of expression and religion is one of the universal human rights, the freedom to express oneself aslong as it does not harm others and the freedom to practice your own religion. In this age where such rights do exist and where students are learning history and how equality came to be, why are some nations still fighitng for such rights that are entitled to them? My hijab gives me empowerment and it does not harm anyone. I have never felt burdened or opressed while wearing it, i just hope and pray that politicians and others began to see its beauty too.

  7. This explains the white feminisim that exists in society. Why is that coving oneself looked as something that is opressive.Where as its completly fine to walk naked and it does not look bad in the eyes of the male dominated world. To me that is a form of opression as you are objectifying what women should wear or not.

  8. It’s shocking to see how a piece of fabric that some Muslim women choose to wear can create such discrimination and controversy in society. The obsession with telling a women what to do with her body and how she should dress needs to end on both sides. Why does society have a problem if Muslim women want to cover up? This mentality is sickening and it is time we stop telling women how to dress and encourage diversity and acceptance within our societies. What difference does a girl who chooses to wear a hijab make? Forcing her to take it off doesn’t change her mindset and beliefs so why does France think they have the right to force decisions on them?

  9. As someone who wants to be a teacher in the future, i would embrace my hijab. Banning hijab or religous symbols from school is not a smart idea. School is a huge influence on children and is the basic foundation of their thinking and growth. In order to encourage acceptance of everyone despite their differences or faith, it is crucial that religious symbols such as the hijab are not banned. If children grow in an environment where they are not exposed to how other people express their faith, they will be confused when they go out in the public and even more so when they hear the media . Thus, in order to encourage acceptance and an openmindset, religous symbols like the hijab should not be banned.

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