Preserving Culture or Eliminating Rights?

So I’m not sure how many of you have heard about the fairly new law passed in France that prohibits women from wearing the hijabs, or head scarves. It went into effect on the 10th of April, so I apologize for my delay in getting to this topic. The law now prohibits women from wearing full veils in public places. This law has made France the first country to impose restrictions on a piece of clothing Muslims consider a religious obligation. Although the law does not claim to target women, this is a direct attack on the rights of Muslim women in France, one that will affect them socially, emotionally, and economically.

Since 2004 hijabs have been banned in French public schools. While this ban is more understandable than the new one, it still poses a problem to the Muslim population of France. Students in French public schools are not allowed to wear any religious symbol, save for a small cross or star of David.  However the hijab is not only a religious symbol for many Muslims, but  a cultural one too. It provides away for the Muslims living in France to retain a sense of identity as a Muslim. Stripping Muslim women of this right is not only culturally insensitive but prevents women from being able to express themselves. It’s simply cruel and unfair.

The French government claims that the ban on hijabs in schools is beneficial because it prevents other children from teasing Muslim children. But if this is the reason the law was created, then doesn’t this say something more about the French culture? Isn’t the government attempting to fix the wrong problem? For years since a large population of Muslims have immigrated to France they have been looked down upon. Racial tensions between the French and the Muslims are long standing.This law and the support for this law should reveal to the French government that the problem goes far deeper than the hijab and cannot be resolved simply through a ban. The problem the French face is a similar one that America faces between the Whites and the Blacks, the separatist problem, although they tend to refuse to admit it. If anything, this ban of hijabs will only fuel the already present flames.

Also, by prohibiting Muslim children from wearing the hijab in schools more and more Muslims will stop attending school, not because they do not want to learn, but because their religion mandates that they wear the hijab. This would mean that the French government would not be allowing Muslim children to receive the education they are entitled to. The Muslims who live in France are as much citizens as any of the population, and why their opinion, religion, and culture do not matter I cannot tell you. The increase number of Muslim students who will not be getting an education will have a great impact on the French economy. These Muslims will not be contributing to the work force because they will not have the education required. Without jobs the number of Muslims in poverty will increase which will  in turn increase the number of Muslim ghettos that are already a problem for the French.

And now this new ban will only heighten the problems this first ban started. It will affect not only Muslim girls attending school, but ALL Muslim women. And what is the reason the supporters give for the hijab ban:

“It is viewed as a necessary step to preserve French culture and to fight what they see as separatist tendencies among Muslims.”

-Steven Erlanger

But are not Muslim women a part of French culture? Why is their addition to the culture any less? To the Muslim women of France, this law singles them out. They feel as though they are not being represented by the French government. And they’re not; the ban was passed through Parliament with only one vote opposed.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president has said:

“We no longer want an immigration that is inflicted (on us) but an immigration that is chosen, this is the founding principle of the new immigration policy I advocate.”

As a person who adores nearly everything about the French culture: cuisine, fashion, film, I must say that the policy needs some work.



One thought on “Preserving Culture or Eliminating Rights?

  1. I understand that a government would want to be separated from any religion, but France took it too far. However, it’s interesting to compare it to places where religion is mandated and one religion takes precedence over others. For example, there are several schools in the U.S. (especially in the South) where parents are asking for their students to learn about creationism rather than evolution. This bias towards Christianity perpetuates the mentality that the U.S. is a Christian nation and that Separation of Church and State is an unAmerican ideal.

    It’s unfortunate that France has to be on the opposite end of the spectrum and, in its own way, is hurting people who strongly identify with religion. Both countries need to realize that not everyone sees religion in the same way so that a middle-ground can be established.

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