Islamophobia is the extreme fear of and hostility toward Islam and Muslims and is an extreme example of bullying and racism. It often leads to hate speech, hate crimes, social and political discrimination.  

Islamophobia has far-reaching consequences for individuals, families, and communities of the Islamic faith. However, the pervasiveness of Islamophobia is evident in the fear mongering tactics of right-leaning politicians, groups, and the media. Their hateful and ignorant words contribute to the normalisation of Islamophobia through conflating terrorism with Islam and portraying Muslims as the enemy within.

On October 11, 2010, France introduced a controversial ban on women wearing the full-face veil in public. A law was passed in France to penalize those Muslim women who wore the niqab, which at the time only affected a few hundred women. So as not to target Islam directly, the law was given a neutral title. Officially it was to ban “concealing the face in the public space.” Ironically, about 10 years later, because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the requirement to wear face masks, concealing the face is now mandatory in France rather than banned. The niqab has now become extremely rare in France. But this should not be seen as an impact of the law itself, because it resulted in an exponential increase in the act of wearing a niqab in the years following 2010. Prohibition made the niqab more desirable and created a craze among some young women to defy the law. This craze for the forbidden created a new form of religious observance, away from the mosques, a virtual form developed on Salafist social networks.

While this was occurring, groups of  ‘good’ French Muslim citizens saw themselves as responsible for enforcing the law themselves. They directed insults, threats and even physical violence towards women who wore the niqab. But these heroic Muslim women did not abandon the niqab, they responded with resistance, and they saw this as trials sent by Allah swt. Once again, the government in France continues to stigmatize French Muslims by accusing them of “separatism”, But it is the French governments themselves who have created this separation over the last two decades. The only solution today is for France to accept its Muslims as also being French in total equality with others and by treating them with dignity, and by applying the Republican principles of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity towards its Muslim population.

In conclusion, the hatred against Islam and Muslims is becoming mainstream in France. Rather than condemning the acts of small groups that are spreading hate, intolerance and violence, French authorities target the essence of the Muslim belief system and question its compatibility with modern values. These bans are depriving Muslim women of their freedom of religion and expression. Islamophobia is becoming a big issue in France, even though the population of Muslims is high in number. As other religions roam free in France without any discrimination, so should all Muslims. We should be allowed to express our religion freely.

Islamaphobia in France by Hana Amjad.

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