The European Forum of Muslim Women is appalled and strongly condemns the comments made by the French Minister of the family, children and women’s rights. The openly racist statements comparing women choosing to wear a headscarf to American ”Negroes” accepting slavery are absolutely scandalous, but the entirety of the comments made by the Minister in the interview are an anthology of prejudice and amalgams against Muslim women. This simply confirms the scathing report of the Council of Europe on the recent rise in France of a state Islamophobia, primarily affecting Muslim women.
The infantilisation also sends us back to the outrageous comparison between the choice of veiled Muslim women, and African Americans who accepted slavery.
The minister says, “we need to provide Muslim women with ideological weapons…in neighbourhoods under Salafi influence”. This infantilisation and personification of Muslim women are indeed deplorable and symptomatic of a profound misunderstanding of Muslim women by the French political class. The infantilization also sends us back to the outrageous comparison between the choice of veiled Muslim women, and African Americans who accepted slavery. This comparison not only strips women of all their freedoms but goes as far as denying their condition of fully fledged free human beings.
Veiled women are not a monolith, exclusively living in poor neighbourhoods or having no proper ability to reflect; we find them throughout the French territory, working in all areas of civil society, each with her own individual choices, be in terms of spiritual, ideological or sartorial choices. It is indeed sad and deplorable that the minister of women’s rights ignores the primary capacity of these women to think and reflect on their own.
This type of discourse, which condemns the influence and social pressure in poor neighbourhoods, paradoxically carries another form of social pressure, from the state this time, which creates an even stronger exclusion of Muslim women. The European Forum of Muslim Women notes that in fact, remarks such as those of the Minister, can in term, prevent many Muslim women from feeling empowered in their social and spiritual journeys as it highlights a supposed incompatibility between Islam and civil society.
We also reject amalgams, such as the one made by the Minister, which associates the Islamic headscarf to political activism. We regret that a religious symbol, when associated with Islam is systematically affiliated to a political project at the expense of what it is in reality, an individual spiritual choice.
Comments by Minister Laurence Rossignol on the ‘’Negroes’’ of America have shocked and created a controversy. But all of what the minister said is just as scandalous and symptomatic of a state Islamophobia that the European Forum of Muslim Women condemns, rejects and fights, notably through a rallying of Muslim women’s voices throughout Europe such as in the “Women against Islamophobia” project.