French Hijabi slams ministers saying her headscarf is a symbol of her faith, and it isn’t a political statement.
Maryam Pougetoux, a 19-year-old girl studying in one of the France’s top universities, also the president of the student union at the university found herself being the center of a media storm after she had appeared in a documentary wearing a headscarf, that is also known as, ‘Hijab‘. She appeared in the documentary, where she was talking about student protests in the country, which has been ongoing in the French capital since April, 2018. More than 20,000 people were estimated to have been involved, according to police in the protests over education reforms proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Maryam, in an interview with Buzzfeed News told that her religion did not affect her ability to perform her duties as the union president.
“When I defend students, I do not ask myself about their skin color, their sexual orientation, their philosophy of life” she told the news outlet.
She wasn’t criticized for voicing her opinions and thoughts on the protests, instead, she was made a controversial topic for wearing her headscarf that’s a part of her faith, as told to Buzzfeed News.
Even though wearing the Muslim headscarf remains legal in universities, and was banned in French schools and some other public buildings in 2004, the French Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said that Hijab is a “form of promotion of political Islam”, adding that the students’ union UNEF should tell us what values it wants to promote, clearly and coherently. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said Ms Pougetoux’s appearance in a Hijab was a “provocation” that he found “shocking”.
She added “I did not expect it to go up so high that it’s almost a state affair. It is rather pathetic for a minister of the interior to make such remarks.”
Maryam has also been a target of social media abuse, she had been receiving hate messages after her phone number was shared online.
France even after being a secular state does not allow woman wearing a headscarf to advocate for political causes or represent a union.
Meanwhile, a Satirical French magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ joined a campaign of hatred started by politicians and media circles against Maryam, who appeared on television wearing a headscarf. The magazine published a provocative cartoon depicting a monkey wearing a Hijab captioned, “they chose me to head the UNEF” (French National Student Union). Commentators said in the long history of abuse against Islam and Muslims the cartoon is the latest.
In France, people are not accustomed to seeing a hijabi women on prime-time television. Their presence still causes shock and anxiety. Why is a piece of fabric causing such reactions in France? Why a symbol of religion is mistaken as a political statement? Why are people not being able to accept that a hijabi women can be a regular member of French society?