France targets Muslims in bans, secularism

Banning “ostensibly” religious symbols worn to schools in 2004, France, a secular country changes its narrative surrounding Islamophobia. Several religious bans have occurred afterwards and French Muslims are the main group affected by them.

Hiding behind the label of political secularism, or laïcité, French officials are promoting Islamophobia through creating laws against religious symbols like hijabs.
“Islamic head scarves, Christian crosses that are too large in size and Jewish skullcaps” were banned in French public schools in the name of secular values, an article by The New York Post said.
This rule predominantly affects Muslim students. Large crosses are not commonly worn by Christians. Only around 40% of Jewish people in France wear kippahs, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
This blatant discrimination towards Muslims continued as the wearing of full length veils in public was later banned in 2011.
According to an article by the Baltimore Sun, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose administration implemented this ban, said that niqab and burqa were forms of oppression and “subservience.”
His comment demonstrates the white savior attitude currently pervading France. Muslim women who choose to wear headscarves, steeped in tradition, are not oppressed and do not need white men to make this decision for them.
Freedom of expression, one of the ideas of the French Constitution, is being taken away specifically for French Muslim women who choose to wear headscarves and full-length veils.
In 2019 a Muslim chaperone wore her veil on a school trip with her son to a local assembly where a far-right politican, Julien Odoul, asked her to remove it. His reasoning was that she had ample time to wear her headscarf at home, according to an article by France 24. The French Senate wasted no time in extending the ban on headscarves to adults chaperoning field trips.
The problem stems from racism and discrimination against Islam. French leaders associate headscarves and face/hair coverings for the sake of modesty with terrorist acts by radical Islamic groups and against white feminist ideas that women wearing headscarves are oppressed.
In 2016, several areas in France (including Nice, Cannes, Villeneuve-Loubet, Frejus and Roquebrune) banned the wearing of burkinis, full-body swimsuits for Muslim women. These bans were later removed but were instituted after attacks on France by Islamist extremists, according to an article by the BBC.
Cannes mayor David Lisnard stated that the burkinis were a “symbol of Islamic extremism” during the ban.
This association is highly racist in that not all people practicing Islam are involved in terrorist groups. How many times must Muslim people establish that being Muslim does not correlate to being a terrorist?
In addition to these offensive remarks, the desire of current President Emmanuel Macron to stamp out Islamic radicalism in France has left Muslims around the world offended and hurt in the process.
In 2015, The Charlie Hebdo magazine printed offensive caricatures of several religions including painting the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. The magazine office was attacked by extremists later that year and announced that they would be republishing the cartoons in September of this year. The cartoons were also projected onto French government buildings in honor of a teacher murdered by an Islamic extremist for showing those cartoons to students in class.
Obviously, people should not have been killed over cartoons and sympathy should be expressed for them. However, the reprint and public display cartoons that are still offensive should not occur as it blasphemes a whole religion and does not just denounce the actions of Muslims who committed these appalling acts.
Projecting these cartoons on government buildings villainized a whole religion in public view and promoted Islamophobic views.
In trying to unify the state in secularism, Macron and officials before him have sacrificed the freedom of French Muslims with no relation to terrorism and have allowed Islamophobia to take center stage.