On Mar. 30, French senators voted in favor of an amendment under the Separatism Bill that prohibits anyone under the age of 18 years old from wearing a hijab in public.
Promoted by the French president Emmanuel Macron, the Separatism Bill, was seen as a way to put an end to “Islamist radicalism.” The bill would include several laws targeting Muslims living in France. One of the most significant changes is the requirement for mosques to register as a place of worship and the requirement for religious group officials to report any donation over $12,000 in an attempt to eliminate foreign influence.
Additionally, the bill would ban Muslim mothers from accompanying their children on school field trips while wearing a hijab, as well as restrict the use of burkinis—a women’s swimsuit commonly used in the Islamic faith that covers the whole body—in public swimming pools.
The bill cannot go into full effect until it has received approval and confirmation from the National Assembly. French senators who voted in favor of these restrictions justified their beliefs by arguing that the bill will prohibit “inferiorization” of women to men in public spaces. Right-wing Senator Bruno Retailleau, who has expressed his approval of the bill, described the hijab and burkini as “sexist,” “a marker of the submission of women” and “the banner of separatism.” In a charged address, the senator explained that the veiling of women helps Islamist attempts to create a counter-society, separated from the national community.
Since the latest approval from the Senate, several activists from the Muslim community came out with criticisms. Activist and founder of Muslim Women’s Day, Amani al Khatahtbeh, came out in support of her “French sisters,” denouncing the country’s Islamophobia.
Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic fencer, wrote in an Instagram post, “This is what happens when you normalize anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim hate speech, bias, discrimination and hate crimes — Islamophobia written into law.”
In the past, other European countries have banned the use of religious facial covering. A month prior to the new French legislation, Switzerland banned the burqa and niqab, with a 51% majority of Swiss voters in favor of eliminating full face coverage in public.