After enacting Monday a law that bans the public appearance of women in hijab and niqab, concealing attire worn by women in accordance with some Islamic traditions, the French government faces protest and resistance to enforcement.
Jamaat-e-Islami Women Wing, a Muslim political party in Pakistan led by president Rabiya Tariq, demonstrated outside the Lahore Press Club today with signs reading, “My Hijab, My Right, My Choice” and “Stop this offense against Muslim women,” according to the Nation.
The New International reports that the protesters’ signs condemned France with other European nations for “usurping religious freedom” of Muslims and “their fundamental rights to lead their lives according to their religious principles.”
“The Western World must understand that Hijab is our identity and we feel protected and comforted in wearing veil,” Tariq said in a speech demanding global attention for a “violation of basic human rights” in France.
Women face human rights violations in Pakistan as well, according to a report released today by the Human Rights Commission. In 2010, 791 women, because they were raped, refused an arranged marriage, or didn’t to adhere to hijab dress code, were murdered in “honor killings,” while 719 committed suicide.
President Nicolas Sarkozy endorsed banning face veils in 2010, stating that the burqua was “not welcome” in France, a country that “cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.”
Kenza Drider, a mother of four dressed in niqab like the other women who stood with her outside Notre Dame on Monday, said, “I’m not here to provoke, but to defend my civil liberties as a French citizen.”
Before Drider and two protest organizers were escorted away by police officers, they were peacefully protesting for their right “to dress as they please,” the Guardian reports.
Sarkozy called the veil an instrument of “servitude.” But is it a liberty if it comes from a mandate banning a religious preference? Can two mandates guarantee a universal human right?
As Halima, a 53-year-old mother, suggests, if the niqab is banned, what’s next? Head scarves? Long-sleeves? Pants? Several police unions in France cautioned that enforcement of the new law was “almost impossible” and they would not prioritize it.
“This is the first time I’ve ever protested over anything. I’m not in favor of the niqab, I don’t wear it myself. But it’s wrong for the government to ban women from dressing how they want,” Halima said before being detained by police in Notre Dame for standing with the women wearing niqab – she was wearing a head scarf.