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Algerian Feminists react to ’Hijab Day’ in Paris 2016

Monday 25 April 2016

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ource:, 24.04.2016

On ’Hijab Day’ in Paris 2016

two articles by
Lalia Ducos and Zazi Sadou, Algerian feminists

Introduction by marieme helie lucas

April 24, 2016

On Wednesday, April 20 2016, some students at the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Sciences which prides itself with educating France’s elite, organized a ‘Hijab Day’, a replica of the worldwide event that was initiated in 2013. It is supposed to help non-veiled non-Muslim students realize how discrimination affects veiled women.
This will no doubt come as a surprise to many English speaking readers who still believe that veiling is legally banned in France, thanks to gross disinformation organized by the mainstream media.

Although i have doubts that the event itself (with display tables for head scarves and distribution of leaflets) had been authorized by the Director of the Institute, it was nevertheless perfectly legal to wear a veil at Sciences Po Paris, as is the case everywhere in France, except on two occasions : in primary and secondary schools in secular state schools (where education is entirely free) for pupils (who are usually under age 18), teachers and admin ; and for civil servants when in contact with the public, i.e. when s/he is due to represent the secular republic. This legal provision was set into the laws on secularism passed in 1905-1906 – i.e. very long before there was the beginning of a ‘Muslim’ immigration in France. Some of my foreign visitors initially display shock at the sight of a veiled woman in the streets, so intoxicated are they with fundamentalist propaganda about French laws. (As for the full face covering veil, it has nothing to do with secularism: it was banned recently, together with helmets and masks, for reasons of security, as is the case in several Muslim majority countries where armed fundamentalists operate.)

The two articles below point at the discrepancy between defending ‘the right to veil’ in a country where this right is already well defended under the 1905-6 secular laws which guarantee freedom of belief and freedom of practice to all citizens. Moreover, human rights organizations in France regularly take up cases when veiled women are verbally assaulted by extreme right-wing people, and French courts do condemn the perpetrators. In short, yes, there are people who openly discriminate against veiled women (so far they are not many, but the far-right is growing - as is the case everywhere in Europe); and no, France is not a ‘racist’ country, its laws and judicial system protect all citizens – and this includes, of course, veiled women.

But who, today in France, defends the right not to veil, when it is needed ? Who defended it when Algerian women were slaughtered by armed fundamentalist groups in the nineties? Who does what today for the Nigerian girls forcibly converted, veiled and sold as slaves by Boko Haram and who are still held by them. Or for the Iraqi women at the hands of Daesh ? Who speaks up at Sciences Po Paris or at LSE London for the Sudanese women who were publicly denounced on Facebook as ‘unveiled’ by Muslim fundamentalist groups, and thus facing death threats by both the religious far-right groups and State courts ? Who actively engages in their defence, among the Left, human rights, feminist organizations in France, in Europe ? Why so many voices for veiled women’s rights and so few for non-veiled ones, be they Muslim believers or not ? It is this discrepancy, this inequality in the treatment of women’s rights and human rights that both these articles point at. Who will speak up for us ?

France’s elites-to-be are in denial regarding the role played by ‘the veil’ in the fundamentalist global strategy to insure visibility and gaining ground as part of an ‘Islamisation’ of societies. The two articles below also point at the fact that ‘the veil’ is not Islamic perse but cultural, as progressive scholars of Islam pointed at very clearly; and that it is only a first step in a series of demands by fundamentalists who cleverly use the principles of democracy and equality to advance their goals. What looks like, at first sight, an inoffensive Muslim ‘fashion’ leads to other demands for segregation, unequal rights for women, teaching creationism, ban on arts and music, etc… Algerian women are well placed to speak about it, as the introduction of a culturally alien form of covering took place in the seventies, was followed by many other diktats regarding their freedom of movement, their access to education and to wage labour, etc… and culminated in assassinations and massacres of civilians, with women tortured, burnt alive, raped, sold to fundamentalist armed groups and taken into slavery, - just like Daesh is doing right now in Iraq and Syria.

Isn’t it ironical that – at a time when France and Europe begin to be confronted to armed attacks against civilians by Muslim fundamentalist armed groups - , what seems most urgent to defend right now, for France’s elite-to-be – but also to rights groups and left organisations – is the right to cover one’ head ? It is for survivors of the Algerian decimation (200 000 victims) to unveil this uncomfortable truth.

"Hijab Day" at the Paris Institute of Political Sciences : "in the name of all the Algerian women who were assassinated for having refused to bend to the fundamentalist dress code diktat"

by Lalia Ducos

Souvenir Day : Amel Zenoune, assassinated for refusing to wear a veil

by Zazi Sadou