Sixteen year-old Mariem Chourak is a devout Muslim who considers wearing a hijab an expression of her devotion to the Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H), but a proposal by French senators might soon deny her the freedom to do so in public spaces.
The amendment to an ‘anti-separatism’ bill designed to strengthen France’s “secular values” and which applies to girls under 18 has drawn outrage and prompted an online protest under the hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab (#PasToucheAMonHijab) that went viral beyond French borders.
“It’s part of my identity. To force me to remove it would be a humiliation,” Chourak said. “I cannot understand why they would want to pass a law that discriminates.”
France prohibited the wearing of Islamic headscarves in state schools in 2004. In 2010, it banned the niqab, the full-face Islamic veil, in public places such as streets, parks, public transport, and administrative buildings.
A group of young women is running the #PasToucheAMonHijab campaign from the living rooms of their families’ flats.
They have drawn support from social media influencers, a US lawmaker and Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American woman to wear a hijab while competing in the Olympics, among others.
“(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.