Bonjour, aslamailakun ca va? ka fa hal? Both greetings are the same, hello, how are you? In France, you can often hear a mixture of French and Arabic being spoken.
Are the French islamphobic? Do they fear Muslims? Do they welcome Muslim or ethnic minorities? I cannot answer this question.
France has one of the largest Muslim populations in Western Europe 5- 6 million (8-9%), yet you will struggle to see many Muslim people in senior management positions. Muslims from all over Africa especially Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria come to France with the hope of making a better life for themselves. I personally did not experience any form of Islamaphobia from French people during my weekend in Paris. But, then I do not wear a hijab and have an English accent. However, the story is different for some Muslims living in France and the subject of racism is a taboo subject.
In London, you can see Muslim women roaming the streets head to toe in black with only their eyes showing. In Paris, I didn’t see one women with an abaya in all the different neighbourhoods I explored. I spotted a few women wearing the hijab and Muslim men wearing traditional attire from their home countries. I am not saying I want to see women wear the niqab or that I support it. However, I am a firm believer that a woman and a man should be able to wear what they want to.What is it about the hijab and niqab that scares some people? I admit speaking to someone whose face I cannot see is NOT a comfortable experience. However, seriously it is not hard to converse with someone who covers his or her head. What is so scary about that? Please tell me as I am struggling to figure it out. Is the hijab such a sore sight and who are we to tell people what to wear? What happened to freedom of expression or the freedom to wear what you want?
In France on January 25 it was announced that the parliamentary committee, having concluded its study, would recommend that a ban on veils covering the face in public locations such as hospitals and schools be enacted, but not in private buildings or on the street. On 22 June 2009, at the Congrès de Versailles, President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that the Islamic burqa is not welcome in France, claiming that the full-length, body-covering gown was a symbol of subservience that suppresses women’s identities and turns them into “prisoners behind a screen.” A parliamentary commission of thirty-two deputies and led by André Gerin (PCF), was formed to study the possibility of banning the public wearing of the burqa or niqab.
As I enjoyed my weekend in Paris, I spoke to various Muslims from Tunisia, Lebanon, Africa, Algeria Senegal and Ivory Coast and they all have the same story to tell, that in France Muslims are feared and the hijab is not allowed in public places. . In France, the French people will not admit they are racist or do not like Muslims or minorities. However, realistically, who is going to openly admit that they do not like a certain set of people. This is a view shared by the people I encountered and other Muslim or minorities in France may have a different tale to tell.
The problem in France is that it asks children who are born here and grow up here to eat French, sleep French, but they still don’t accept me as French,” said Bigaderne, the son of Moroccan and Algerian immigrants.
“A real Frenchman is white,” he explained, “not black or Arab.”
It saddens me that in 2012 we still discriminate against minorities and cannot fully accept other faiths and people and have to pose restrictions on people and what they can or can’t wear. I hope with the new French President Hollande things for Muslims in France will get better.