Islamophobia has long been on the rise in France and other parts of Europe. Right-wing politicians promote opposition against Muslim communities. The French government has been enacting Islamophoc laws against Muslims. In 2004, they banned the niqab and burka, a type of veil, in schools and public places.
Aljazeera, a Qatar-based news channel, reported that the French culture war over Islam shows no signs of abating.
Recently, a French government minister has pledged to confront an increase in clothing associated with Muslim cultures in French schools, which, he says, is counter to French values of secularism.
Pap Ndiaye, the minister of education, described the phenomenon as a “wave” encouraged by online religious influencers.
France banned religious symbols and clothing in schools to prevent Muslim girls from wearing veils 18 years ago.
However, Ndiaye said influencers, especially on TikTok, were encouraging young girls to defy the ban by turning up to school wearing abayas, incidences of which increased by 40 percent in 2021.
“We are going to do what is necessary to limit the harmful influence of these Islamist agitators. The Republic is stronger than TikTok,” Ndiaye said.
France is home to a large immigrant community and around 6 million Muslims, many of whom resent the country’s attitude toward religious dress as a product of its foundational secularism.
This week, clashes broke out between pupils and police at a school in a Paris suburb for the second time, after the head teacher banned abayas.
Ministers have also suggested that online Islamists are targeting boys too, encouraging them to wear garments such as thawbs.
Teachers, though, have voiced confusion as to whether or not thawbs and abayas constitute religious dress or whether they should be considered cultural items, leading to questions over whether they should be banned.
Didier Georges, a member of the head teachers’ union, told The Times: “We’d like a clear rule that we don’t have to interpret.”
What Can the French Muslims Do About the Rising Islamophobia?
Despite the challenges Muslims in France have been facing, they could adopt a hybrid strategy to tackle the Islamophobic issue in the country.
- Disarm Islamophobia with kindness
- Raise their political clout in the country
- Have their voices heard in the national media
- Engage in interfaith dialog more extensively
The above-mentioned strategies may help them create a political and cultural space in French society in the long term. But, other Muslim governments have to convince French officials to take visible steps to control Islamophobia in society.