A New Hijab Controversy in France
Unbelief Brief
April 8, 2024
France has been rocked by another high-profile incident in which its staunchly secular principles have run up against conservative Islamic sensibilities.

A New Hijab Controversy in France

France has been rocked by another high-profile incident in which its staunchly secular principles have run up against conservative Islamic sensibilities. A disagreement over a hijab policy led to what was described as an “altercation” and the ultimate resignation of a school headmaster in Paris.

Under French law, it is illegal to wear face coverings—but not headscarves—in any public place. However, when it comes to government buildings, which includes schools, rules are stricter. There, symbols of any religion may not be displayed or worn—and this includes the hijab.

The incident in question involved the school principal asking three students who were wearing the hijab in his school—two girls and one woman—to remove them. The woman reportedly refused, leading to the aforementioned “altercation.” In the aftermath, the principal received death threats over the incident and subsequently took an “early retirement.”

Protests over the incident in the headmaster’s favor have since taken place in Paris.

Iran Hijab Law Snagged

Iran International has reported that Iran’s Hijab and Chastity Law, passed by parliament in September of last year, still has yet to become law as a result of repeated snags.

The spokesman for the Guardian Council, the constitutional body tasked with vetting legislation for compliance with Sharia or the Constitution, announced on Thursday that the Council has once again sent the bill back to the parliament for amendments — marking the fourth time … Analysts suggest that the ultra-hardline Council's reluctance to swiftly approve the legislation, contrary to the expectations of their political allies in the parliament, is not driven by public objections to its provisions. Instead, it likely arises from concerns about the potential political and security ramifications of enacting the legislation, among the highest levels of power.

Iran International also notes that “the number of women who refuse to abide by the current rules has very noticeably increased since” March 2023, when religiously militant elements in Iran first began their effort to reassert control over the female populace’s morality following mass demonstrations in the wake of Mahsa Amini’s murder.

The ultimate fate of this new law is unclear for now, though it could still very well pass, in which case women would be subject to stricter punishments and fines for violating the country’s hijab mandate.

Turkish Secularists Make Gains

In Turkey, the opposition Republican People’s Party to the current Islamist-adjacent Justice and Development Party recently scored a number of important victories in regional elections.

In addition to once again winning the mayoralty of Istanbul, the country’s largest city—in spite of a concerted campaign from the conservative party—the secular opposition also won victories in the capital city of Ankara and even in some more conservative-leaning areas outside of the major cities.

If this is a sign of things to come, it is a welcome step in the right direction for a country which has seen many long years of democratic backsliding and movement closer to something resembling theocracy.

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