France's Secularism, But at what Cost? — The Hijab Ban

The country is pretty much proud of its secularism system, where one is for all and all is for one. But is it actually fair and provides freedom of expression to the people?


Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-wearing-red-hijab-2218352/


What is Secularism exactly?

This is a concept defined as where the state is a separate body from all religious establishments, which means that religious institutions cannot interfere with the government's decisions and vice versa.

The official website explains that the benefit aimed for through secularism is that it allows freedom of religious practices. Therefore, it allows manifestations and display of signs regions beliefs. Secularism does not allow interlinking with the state purely because it is wished to protect the rights of many minority or vulnerable groups such as LGBTQ+, women etc. when it comes to access to public services such as hospitals or schools, as it introduces law of equality.

To summarise the purpose of secularism, it is to both allow freedom of religious expression but also providing equal opportunity to all by not discriminating against certain groups. A win-win situation.


And the Hijab?

The hijab is a piece of headwear worn by many women practicing the religion of Islam. The main purpose of it is to protect women from others' attention by covering the chest, neck and hair. This presents the concept of modesty in the religion and comes in different forms and colours. There are even other types of coverage with different names. The hijab provides self-affirmation but also a boost of self-esteem and confidence. If you think about it, it is just like someone who spends some time styling their hair before heading out.


What's with France then?

The nation had introduced the idea to the people back in 1905. France call it «laïcité», or we can call it French Secularism just because they have made a difference between laic and secular where secular is simply not to be related to religion and laic is having no religious interactions or activities with public bodies and governmental matters. Therefore, they have made it so that schools and other public establishments show no signs of religions and are free from it. Hence, laic is to separate religion from government and secular is to completely ignore religions.


In France's case, it means that people will not be allowed to wear any sorts of garments that show their religious belonging in places such as schools. If talking religious garments, it would surely include the hijab, the kippah or even jewellery with a Christian cross pendant.


The nation has already introduced a policy where children under 18 aren't allowed to wear the hijab, which directly discriminates towards the Muslim community. Furthermore, mothers will not be allowed to wear the hijab if they were to accompany their children on a school trip, as part of separatism law amendments. Then later on, it also created controversy over the burkini, which is a full body swimsuit, covering from head to toe. While this still needs to be officially passed as a law, there are still many complications encountered by Muslim women in today's world. In addition to that, recently in 2021, France has banned the wearing of hijab within the sports industry, and specifically football, whether it is as a player, a coach or a member of management.


This fully discriminates against Islam. It is not a law meant to protect the religion, but more like aiming to annihilate it. Something that is completely against the initial principles of secularism and shows blatant Islamophobia in today's era, where people are fighting for their rights.


This is just one problem but it involves major topics such as women's inequality and islamophobia. These should not even be an issue in 2022 but they sadly are.