City of Brass

City of Brass


French hijab ban

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I linked this earlier, but it’s worth highlighting again – this article at Islam Online about the French hijab ban is a fantastic retrospective and absolutely required reading on the topic. 



  • nillawafer

    I don’t completely understand this ban. I live in a state where many German Baptist and Mennonite girls wear bonnets. They are allowed to wear them in public schools. Of course, they go on record as being pacifists and will die before they lift a hand to kill another, but they cover their heads for religious reasons cited in Corinthians. Some schools do not allow clothing that suggests gang membership, even when it doesn’t. Do you think the French think because of the Islamic extremists it is more like a sign of “gang membership” in their minds? Are people in France allowed to wear a cross or crucifix around their necks in school? How about one of those little mezzuzahs?

  • Calclay

    To play the devil’s advocate, I would say that the French gov’t's logic is that since for example Baptists and Mennonites have not been broadly publicized for containing a subset of dangerous ‘extremist’ Baptists/Mennonites, there is no reason for officials to be concerned that the wearer of the religion-signaling clothing is (1) at risk of provoking explicit or non-explicit violence against him or herself and perhaps more important to the government (2) enabling ‘extremists’ to harass/ostracize/and create-fear-in *other members* who do *not* choose to wear the religion-signaling apparel (e.g. by denouncing them as ‘unholy’, not employing them, etc.) …and thus beget dangerous polarization between ‘wearers’, ‘non-wearers’, and ‘non-Baptist/Mennonites’.
    I think the most obvious criticism of the above argument is that it is extremists who are coercing others into signaling their social group that should be reprimanded rather than individuals who like a scarf/bonnet/etc. on their head. However, playing the devil’s advocate again, I would say the French government most likely feels that preventive measures are necessary because (1) too much of the encouraged/enabled violence is discrete/nonpublic/unreported/unprosecutable and (2) were social-group-signaling apparel wearing to accelerate in a ‘chain letter’ manner, social groups might quickly become mutually alienated, creating an unstable situation for the government.
    However, despite offering a counterpoint for the French gov’t, I do agree with you that the treatment should be uniform one way or the other: no religious apparel or all religious apparel. I would also suggest that in the spirit of reducing prejudice and unwarranted favoritism in society, all religious apparel should be banned. At the heart of people belonging to all religions, I believe people want to be happy and treated fairly and I think religious group symbols get in the way of this. I think people see religious garments on other people and it encourages them to believe that those people are more different than, if they were to unwittingly strike up a conversation with that person they would realize, they actually are.

  • Abe Link

    If all religious apparel were to be banned then, what could come next? the banning of sites of worship larger than a certain fixed amount because they provide religious groups with a network of communication and too much opportunity for the planning of large scale acts of terror? And thereby drawing the anger and attention of the very groups France is trying to stop? If the french government wants a repeat of 9/11 in their own magnificent country then they have done the right thing.

  • Sky Felix

    Banning all religious symbols is, in my opinion, the opposite of promoting civility and freedom in society. As educated, well-rounded human beings living in a diverse and complicated world, we shouldn’t reduce other people down to their external appearance. To ask that people homogenize themselves in an attempt to make everyone comfortable is simply asking the minority to assimilate into the majority- the socially accepted norm- because whether we like it or not, there is a moral compromise at work here. Why not just walk around naked? Well, because as a society we have decided that walking around naked is unacceptable. We have decided that walking around in see-through clothing is unacceptable. We have collectively decided what clothing is normal, fashionable, and/or appropriate. Asking other people to conform to that- to give up their concepts of modesty and adopt our own- is as oppressive as anything. If anything, we should be teaching our children about DIFFERENCES, and not instilling this level of fear for the objectified “other”. To that end, ALL religious symbols should be allowed and embraced, and every person should strive to educate themselves and their children about the meaning inherent in them. We do not have to all look the same in order to get along, you know.

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