gambetta2_Jonathan RaaNurPhoto via Getty Images_hijab Jonathan RaaNurPhoto via Getty Images

Freedom in the Veil

Pandering to nativist sentiment, many European countries have placed restrictions on traditional Muslim headscarves, typically in the name of modernization. But very religious women often decide to wear a veil because signaling their enduring piety makes them feel freer to integrate into secular society.

TURIN/LONDON – During the televised debate between the two candidates for the French presidency on April 20, Marine Le Pen stated: “I am in favor of banning the hijab from public space, as it is, in my opinion, a uniform imposed on women by Islamic fundamentalists.” Emmanuel Macron countered, dismissing that as unconstitutional, and accused her of stoking a civil war. 

The controversy over the hijab, the headscarf worn by Muslim women, rarely becomes a topic for debate in presidential elections, but it is far from new in France. It most recently erupted at the end of October 2021. Ironically, the trigger was an anti-discrimination campaign launched by the Council of Europe.

The Council posted a short video on its social media channels comprising a series of images split in half. One side features a woman wearing a hijab, and the other shows the same woman without the head covering. At the end of the video, the text “Beauty is in diversity as freedom is in hijab” appears, followed by the hashtags #celebratediversity and #JOYinHIJAB.