Mariem Chourak, 16, is a devout Muslim who sees the hijab as an expression of devotion to the Prophet Muhammad, but a proposal by French senators could soon deprive her of the freedom to wear the hijab in public.
According to international news agency Reuters, France’s anti-separatist bill, designed to strengthen secular values, has been amended to apply to girls under the age of 18.
Muslim women have expressed outrage over the bill, and protests have been recorded in the border areas, including France, with the hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab (#PasToucheAMonHijab) that went viral.
It’s part of my identity. To force me to remove it would be a humiliation,” she said. “I cannot understand why they would want to pass a law that discriminates.”
France, a secular country, has long been embroiled in controversy over religious sites and religious symbols, and Europe’s largest Muslim minority lives in France.
France banned the wearing of Islamic headscarves in public schools in 2004, and in 2010 it banned the wearing of veils in public places such as streets, parks, public transport and administrative buildings.
The amendment was intended for all religious symbols, but opponents believe it was intended to target Muslims, Senator Christian Black told lawmakers in April, saying it would protect young people.
Addressing the upper house, he said parents should not impose such restrictions on their children.
A group of young women are campaigning against the possible ban on hijab from the living rooms of their flats with the hashtag ‘Hands of My Hijab’.
She has also garnered widespread support on social media, most notably the American legislator and the first American woman to wear the hijab to the Olympics.
“(The politicians) want our emancipation, they want to save us from this imaginary oppression, but it is they who are oppressing us,” said medical student Mona el Mashouly, 25, in her home city of Strasbourg.
Conservative-majority senators amended the bill, including banning mothers from wearing the hijab at school with their children and banning full-body Burkini swimming suits.
A joint committee of both houses of parliament will discuss the amendments, which could still be repealed by the bill.
But 22-year-old Hiba Latreche believes the damage has been done.
She said that this is a sign of continuous policy-making in France regarding the body, choice and beliefs of women while at the same time Muslim women are being used as tools.