Asif Arif, Attorney at Law admitted to Paris Bar
Here we are again. France takes more shocking steps in the history of individual freedom of religion and conscience. The Council of Europe launched a successful campaign to promote freedom and in one of its campaign videos, the freedom of women choosing to wear a hijab was – rightfully – promoted. Seeing the video, French officials contacted The Council of Europe and complained that the video was promoting the hijab which was not in compliance with “European values”.
That’s a very strange concept of “freedom” by a country which claims to be the torchbearers of “liberte”.
After the Council of Europe withdrew the campaign, France’s Secretary of State to the Youth showed up in the media singing the same mantra: France, through its officials in the European Union, decided to remind the Council of Europe that the advocacy for the hijab and the relation between the hijab and the concept of freedom was against European values – as such, it categorised the wearing of a headscarf as contrary to the concept of freedom.
This way of reasoning is common in France today, and in fact France is witnessing the decline of its values and civilisation, day by day. The Council of Europe should know that the situation in France itself is currently very worrying – at least for immigrants, in particularly Muslims; the (future) presidential candidate has been convicted, three times, for discrimination against Muslims. The council should be reminded that France has adopted a law on separatism that leads to the dissolution of multiple mosques – sometimes for reasons that are totally unrelated to the actual mosque. The council should also know that France recently debated on a ban of headscarves in public places.
The argument presented by French officials is, in sum: “We are not against the hijab. We just said that we don’t want to promote it as a freedom”. This absurd argumentation is, in fact, against the very concept of freedom. If some women desire to wear their hijab as part of their freedom of religion, hijab does not become only a freedom; it is the quintessence of the exercise of the freedom of religion that conceded any individual the right to manifest their faith and the right to practice it, collectively and individually.
These inconsistent arguments are hiding the real reason why France is opposing this campaign. Having an electoral basis that is increasingly against the European Union (notably with the upcoming of Eric Zemmour as a candidate), French officials are trying their best to restrain any freedom when it comes to Muslims. If they don’t, public opinion will treat Macron’s team as Islamists or as those who are lenient with political Islamism.
The Council of Europe should also ask itself: Isn’t freedom of religion part of the fundamental freedoms contained in declarations that are the very identity of European Union values? How will the council fight against antisemitism when it would withdraw any campaign when met with opposition? How will the European Union summon other countries to comply with freedom of religion principles and ethics when the Union itself is divided on such a fundamental case?
Is Islamophobia on track to become part of European values, as it is becoming a part of “French values”?
How sad the Lumières would be today looking at France engulfed in darkness, day after day. As Muslims, faithful to our country, we can only pray. But God also says in the Holy Quran that people will get the leadership that they deserve.