It was, to many observers, just plain ordinary campaign poster. Two women and two men, dressed casually, smiling, stood in front of what looked like a park. Above their heads, in bold but cheerful font, read the words “Different, but united for you!” in French.
But the leftist candidate, Sarah Zamahi, wore a headscarf – a decision that has certainly become unusual in French politics.
Zamahi, a 26-year-old Muslim woman and lab technician, was running in the local elections in Montpellier starting Sunday with the support of French President Emmanuel Macron’s party, the Republic en March. The party withdrew its support for the poster in May. Its Secretary General, Stanislas Guerini, He said Her values were “incompatible” with the “wearing of ostentatious religious symbols” in the campaign document.
The controversy was the latest to bring the issue of the headscarf back into conversation in France, whose secularism for years has restricted where and when Muslim women can wear head and face coverings. In April the French Senate الشيوخ Been voted Banning girls under 18 from wearing the headscarf in public – a move that is unlikely to become law because it lacks political support in the lower house of the legislature and is widely viewed as unconstitutional. Another amendment will prevent mothers who wear headscarves from accompanying their children on school trips.
In 2010 the government approved legislation Banning full-face coverings, including the burqa and niqab, in public, due to safety and inequality concerns. In 2004, France pass the law Ban overt religious symbols – such as head coverings – in public schools.
“It’s nothing new,” said Reem Sarah Alwan, a French legal scholar and expert on religious freedom. “It is interesting to see more Muslims being constantly accused of not assimilation, of not participating in society. This is not true. The more they participate in society and democratic life, the bigger problem becomes.”
Zamahi and the three candidates registered on her ticket compete as independents. “We don’t give up,” she said to Reuters. “This is my neighborhood, I was born here. Hijab has never been a problem for the four of us.”
It’s a clear but rare voice in debate. Analysts note that when the issue comes to light in French politics, Muslim women’s voices are usually starkly absent from the conversation.
While the story of my quest has attracted national attention, Muslim women across France — teachers, writers, entrepreneurs and mothers — face challenges around the headscarf every day.
Nine of them told the Washington Post their stories. Although many in France may see it as a symbol of submission, for these women the veil is a symbol of strength and commitment to their culture and religion.
Translations have been edited for clarity and brevity.