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French Muslim Women Challenge Stereotypes in New Documentary

A documentary following seven Muslim women and their relationship with hijab will premier today at the Broadway Theatre in Barking, one day after the International Women’s Day.

Coming from different backgrounds, the 7 protagonists of the film Marianne challenge the dominant narrative of Muslim women in France.

One of the women featured is the deputy leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Cllr Saima Ashraf, who moved to the UK 18 years ago.

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“In France, the state’s version of secularism – laïcité – has been used to justify the exclusion and discrimination of Muslim women, including those who choose to wear the hijab,” Cllr Ashraf told Barking and Dagenham Post.

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“As a Muslim woman who grew up in France, it is heartening to see a film like Marianne challenge these harmful stereotypes and show the reality of our experiences.

“I am proud to be part of this project and to share my story in the hope that it will inspire others to speak out against discrimination and for the right of all women to choose how they express their faith.”

Taking the Mic Back

Marianne also aims to contribute to the effort to redress this imbalance by giving voice to Muslim women.

“I made Marianne to challenge what sadly is too often the discourse about Muslim women in the context of French media and politics – that of a monolithic and submissive group in need of liberation,” director of Marianne Valentina Canavesio said.

“I hope the film challenges this view through the portraits of its protagonists and makes the viewer question their own beliefs about laïcité, feminism and liberty.”

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What Muslim women choose to wear is a controversial topic in France. In 2004, it banned hijab in public schools, and in 2010, it became the first European nation to ban burqa, which covers a woman’s face.

Currently in France, a majority of Bar Councils, including the largest in Paris, have internal rules that do not allow religious symbols such as hijab.

Of Bar Councils representing 75% of practitioners, 56% have banned religious symbols worn with the gown, according to a survey requested by Poirret for this case.

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