Hands off my Hijab movement gains ground

Society Nilanjan Hajra
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hands off my hijab
Photo : Twitter

Somali-Norwegian Muslim model Rawadh Mohamed has stirred the hornet’s nest with her “hands off my hijab post” on Instagram. Her post comes in the wake of a parliamentary initiative in France to ban hijab-wearing by girls. The ‘hands off my hijab’ movement has snowballed since the French Senate voted in favour of such a move. Numerous organizations as well as renowned individuals from various fields, particularly Muslim women, have protested against the move. They have argued it originates from a deep-rooted stereotypical misunderstanding of Islam.

The background of the movement

The French upper house, the senate, last month debated and voted in favour of a bill officially titled ‘Supporting respect for the principles of the Republic’, commonly known as the ‘separatism bill’. The government has argued that the goals of the bill are twofold: a) to crack down on hate-speech and actions, and b) to stop subversion of the core values of the French republic. And the core values include a strict separation between the state and religion.

During this debate an amendment to the original bill was introduced, which sought to ban wearing of hijab by girls below the age 18 in public space. The senate voted 208-109 in favour of the bill, including the amendment.

A large section of the French society and the international community, several internationally acclaimed people and organizations have opposed the initiative. From this scenario has sprung the ‘hands off my hijab’ movement. And it crystalized with a Rawadh Mohamed’s selfie on Instagram, showing ‘hands off my hijab’ written on her left palm.

Hands off my Hijab protest

The backlash to the French government’s move and the Senate vote has been swift. And the ‘hands off my hijab’ movement has steadily gained ground. Many have argued that the proposed law would in effect amount to a law against Islam. Incidentally, there are thousands of French Muslims who wear hijabs. Many French citizens have fiercely opposed the initiative on social media, using the ‘hands off my hijab’ hashtag.

Muslim and non-Muslim voices outside of France have also criticised the French government’s move. The Amnesty International has also condemned the initiative in unambiguous terms. “This proposed law would be a serious attack on rights and freedoms in France,” said Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s Europe researcher.

Rawadh said she started the ‘hands off my hijab’ hashtag because ‘I felt to humanise the movement’. According to her the legislative move stemmed ‘from discrimination and deeply rooted stereotypes against Muslim women’.

Powerful Muslim women voices from the US have also joined Rawadh in opposing the French move. Using the ‘hands off my hijab’ hashtag American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar posted, “France, the world is watching’.

Ace American fencer Olympic medal winner Ibtihaj Muhammed has shared a post which says, “Islamophobia is deepening in France’. We may recall that the American fencing star has already made history by being the only US Olympian to compete wearing a hijab in the Rio Olympics in 2016. Indeed, even a Barbie doll has been issued wearing a hijab in honour of Ibtihaj.

The draft bill will only become a law after the French lower house, the National Assembly also passes the bill. Given the fast-growing popularity of the ‘hands off my hijab’ movement, many have expressed doubts whether the bill will make it past the National Assembly.