French Students Don Hijab for a Day

CAIRO – Paris students are invited on Wednesday, April 20, to don the Islamic hijab for a day, in an attempt to end the stigma around Muslim women and their faith.

“It’s also about showing support to the idea of being in charge of our own bodies. We dress how we want, and don’t accept being told otherwise,” a group of French students wrote on Facebook, The Local reported on Wednesday, April 20.

“Veiled or not, we are all equal.”

The solidarity hijab day was announced by students at Sciences Po University on their Facebook group.

According to the group, Wednesday’s event aimed to “demystify the veil”.

Moreover, it was announced as a protest to the “disturbing declarations” of France’s women’s rights minister who compared women who wear the Muslim headscarf and veil to “negroes who supported slavery”.

Over 250 people said they would attend the event, which is scheduled to run until 9pm on Wednesday, and pictures on social media suggested that there was a definite interest.

The invitation welcomed men and women to try on the group’s “prettiest scarves and pashmina” from 8am, and invited guests to hang around for assistance, tutorials, and discussion.

The university said in a statement sent to The Local that such debates were welcome, as the campus “had always been a place for open debate and free expression”.

It added that even though the event was being held on school grounds, the university “can in no way be interpreted as supporting the initiative”.

Positive Step

The “Hijab Day” was praised as having a positive impact in the French society.

“It will help de-stigmatize the women who wear the hijab in France and allow women to put themselves in the position of those Muslim women who wear it,” Agnès De Féo, French author and documentary maker who specializes on the subject of the Muslim veil in France, told The Local.

“It will encourage people to reflect and ask themselves questions”.

A strong critic to French government attitude towards both hijab and burka, De Féo said that the notion that Muslim women wear the hijab because they feel obliged to by their husband is wrong and a “colonialist view”.

“I have never met a Muslim woman in France who said she wore the veil because her husband made her.”

On the other hand, the event drew some criticism inside the campus.

“I thought at first that it was a joke,” Romain Millard, president of the university’s Républicains association, told Le Figaro newspaper.

He said that while he wasn’t against the veil being worn at university, he didn’t accept it as “a cultural experience to share”.

France is home to a Muslim community of nearly six million, the largest in Europe.

French Muslims have been complaining of restrictions on performing their religious practices.

Adding to French Muslim woes, the French minister of education in December 2013 has maintained an earlier ban on hijab for Muslim volunteers in school trips, ignoring a legal advice from France’s Council of State.

According to the controversial directive, a ban on wearing religious symbols in schools was extended to parents on school trips from wearing religious symbols.