Juveriah Alam says France is destroying its own self-proclaimed “civil liberties” and “democratic values” in a futile quest to erase Islam.
As a Muslim woman, the recent targeting of Islamic attire in France leaves me with a bitter taste of disappointment and a sense of profound disquiet.
The Muslim community in France – once a testament to the nation’s multicultural fabric – has experienced a systematic crackdown on their religious and cultural practices under the guise of “secularism” and “national unity.”
Yet the troubling silence from its close allies, including my own country, Britain, is a grim reminder of the double-standards and selective outrage that often characterises international relations.
Or rather, this has just been France all along: an inherently racist, Islamophobic coloniser, regardless of the political leanings of its government.
In the past, France has banned hijab in schools, niqab in public places, cracked down on Muslim civil rights organisations and even compelled imams to agree on a “charter of principles” set out by the government.
And what’s more, this has been Britain all along: quick to criticise Muslim-majority countries for perceived human rights abuses while maintaining a disturbing silence on the systematic suppression of Muslim rights in allied nations.
Over the years, France has instituted a series of laws that are ostensibly aimed at promoting secularism, but have the effect of marginalising and suppressing Muslims.
French Muslims have suffered blow after blow as anything perceived as remotely Islamic has been targeted. Most recently, the prohibition of the abaya and the kameez in schools has resulted in Muslim children being turned away from their own education.
These aren’t just restrictions on religious expression; they are an assault on the Muslim identity itself.
The French government justifies these actions under the banner of protecting secularism and claims that they are “saving” Muslim women from oppression. However, the irony is palpable. By imposing their standards of liberty and freedom, they are stripping Muslim women of their choice and agency, effectively becoming the oppressors they claim to fight against.
The silence begs the question: Is the concern for human rights, women’s rights and religious freedom only applicable when it suits a certain narrative? Is it easier to point fingers at poorer, weaker nations while turning a blind eye to the actions of powerful allies?
I could say that this silence is not just disappointing; it’s betrayal. I could say that it’s time for Britain to break its silence and speak up for French Muslims. That it’s time to hold France accountable for its actions and to stand up for the principles of human rights, religious freedom, and diversity that we so proudly proclaim. That it’s time to put aside the double standards and selective outrage and to stand with the oppressed, no matter who the oppressor is.
However, as a firm believer in Allah SWT and His Messenger (pbuh), I know better than to appeal to a hostile nation for any morsel of compassion. It won’t work.
Instead, let us have trust in Allah SWT. France is currently on the receiving end of a humiliating campaign of sharp ridicule all over social media. The country is increasingly viewed as a bumbling, has-been colonial power desperately clinging to a vision of some sort of superior identity which it attempts to impose on others.
The abaya ban has been widely mocked, mainly due to the sheer impracticality of trying to enforce it. It is essentially a ban on full-length loose dresses – an attire that is in fact popular in many French high street stores.
And, as if in response to this mockery, Macron has now suggested “experimenting” with school uniform. Yet because this happens to be a policy that is popular with the right-wing, he added that an experimental option could be for children to wear similar outfits to one another, such as “a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a jacket” to seem less strict.
The issue that would follow is that you could easily “Islamise” this outfit with a denim maxi skirt and a long-sleeved T-shirt. Like any hastily thought-out policy, it causes more problems than it solves. Oh dear, Macron.
Everyone knows that Muslims have been coming to France for centuries and have vastly influenced French culture. French Muslims have made their mark on what it means to be French today and everyone knows that it is impossible to erase their contribution.
Yet with policy after policy and law after law, France clings to the hope that Islam in France will disappear. The world watches as France destroys its own civil liberties and any hint of democracy in its futile quest to erase Islam.