As part of its proposed ‘anti-separatism’ bill, the French Senate has voted in favour of outlawing the hijab for minors in public. This has led to the backlash, particularly in social media where #handsoffmyhijab and its French counterpart, #pastoucheamonhijab have helped gain awareness of how this situation affects young French Muslims. But what’s wrong with this proposal?

Many French people have defended the ban claiming that due to France’s principle of “laїcité” or secularism, religious symbols should be banned from public spaces. There are two issues with this, Muslim women only wear the hijab in public, which further adds to the sense that this is not secularism but rather religious discrimination and also, the strongest support for this law is coming from Marine Le Pen and the Rassemblement National Party, however Le Pen, in her own words, has “a strong [Catholic] faith” and as Rogers Brubaker, a sociologist at the University of California, Los Angeles has said “fundamentalist Catholics … were a moderately strong tendency within the party,”. This demonstrates that this campaign is not in defense of secularism but is instead a lack of religious tolerance.

When looking at France’s lack of tolerance today, it is easy to trace its roots back to colonialism. Similar to many other colonizing countries, France held the belief that its people were of a supreme, superior race and that their seizure of control of these countries would be good for these people. It is here that the white savior complex becomes apparent to such an extent that there were colonial cartoons encouraging women to take off their hijabs. In addition to this what many French extreme islamophobes fail to realise is that it was France who went to predominantly Muslim countries preaching “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” thus encouraging the immigration they frequently criticise today.


According to a 2017 survey, more than 70% of the French senators are men, who while they claim to be ending oppression are yet again telling women what they can and cannot wear. At a time where we are seeing a push to challenge gender discrimination, it is disappointing to see a country that preaches equality proposing such sexist and misogynistic bills. 

Further resources:

Local Muslim women on their experiences of wearing the hijab/headscarf

The post that started #handsoffmyhijab:

More information about the hijab: