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Why We Need To Stop Romanticizing France

Having been born in the city of Montréal, I was always intrigued by French culture. I’ve dedicated over half of my life learning the language, and the romantic country never failed to fascinate me. Now that I’m older, however, I’ve come to realize that this country is guilty of persistent Islamophobic rhetoric. The rise of Islamophobia in this region has been proven through years of anti-Muslim initiatives.

France has launched brazen proposals & bans throughout the years, opposing religious attire, practices and even went as far as to enforce dietary restrictions. Islam is the fastest-growing faith in France similar to the rest of the world, ultimately provoking this anti-Muslim discourse and earning the support of the widely-known secular population.

The French government has been adamant about the headscarf ban, having been first enforced in 2004. It was at this time that hijabs were banned in public schools and eventually extended to private schools as well. 17 years later, a bill has been proposed banning hijabs for girls under the age of 18 & accompanying mothers on school trips. 

As a hijabi myself, I made the deliberate decision to put it on at the tender age of nine by choice. I’ve now worn it for more than half of my life and stripping young Muslim girls of this right is disgusting. No one should be told what to wear & being shunned from wearing religious attire is no one’s place.

In 2011, French President Nicolas Sarkozy outdid himself by introducing the niqab ban, also known as the face veil. This is a practice exercised by a number of Muslim women, yet France still believes it is their place to speak on it. Even with the incorporation of masks in our daily lives, niqabs are still not allowed as they are socially linked to extremism.

Burkinis are another piece of Islamic attire that France pridefully chooses to debate. This modest form of swimwear worn by Muslim women is made to adhere to Islamic attire rules, so why does it seem to bug the French so much? In 2009, a woman in France was forbidden from a public pool due to the burkini contradicting legislation that prohibited swimming in ‘streetwear.’ This idea was further supported by David Lisnard, mayor of Cannes when he banned the swimsuits in 2016, prompting 20 other French towns to follow suit. Women who continued to wear Burkinis were then issued fines and tickets claiming they were not wearing outfits respecting good morals and secularism. Since when does having good morals entail forcing women to deviate from their religion? But stripping them of their preferred attire does, right? Women were then left with the decision to either avoid swimming or comply with the rules & ignore their religious protocols. Obviously, this popularized anti-Muslim propaganda allowed Islamophobes across the country to flagrantly criticize these individuals.

In 2021, you’d think France would’ve woken up. But things are only getting worse. Recently, France advanced the idea to ban halal (lawful) slaughtering of poultry starting in July 2021. Muslims are unable to consume meat unless it’s slaughtered in a halal method. Taking away apparel rights is one level of disrespect, but restricting diet is something I didn’t think even France was capable of. While they claim Islamic slaughtering practices are inhumane, studies show that this method actually reduces pain & suffering for the animal. The animals are instantly executed by targeting the jugular and are kept away from all other animals to prevent fear.

The French Senate has additionally added limitations on prayers at universities to the anti-Muslim law. Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam that must be performed five times daily and dismantling students with the ability to do so is appalling. While Macron’s government claims this is to ensure the country’s secular system, it just seems like a way to satisfy right-wing citizens and win their votes.

There is a lot of Islamophobia in the world and France seems to be a leader in this. These restrictions and bans only further divide Muslims from other citizens. It is evident these proposals are meant to drive the Muslim population out of the country, but if we use our voices and recognize the mistreatment, surely we can make a difference. 

 

Aishah Ashraf is a second-year journalism student at Ryerson University whose hopes to pursue a career as a talk-show host are fuelled by her passion to remedy the absence of female Muslim representation in the entertainment industry. When she isn’t writing, you can find her rambling on about pop culture, searching for new adventures to embark on, or binge-watching programs on Netflix like the television fanatic she is. 
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