Hijab, which has long been contentious in India, is now gaining popularity in political arenas throughout the world. The hijab grabbed centre stage in the presidential campaign of France on Friday, as far-right contender Marine Le Pen sought to outlaw them in the country with the biggest Muslim population in Western Europe.
Both she and her opponent Emmanuel Macron, who face a close runoff on April 24 in the presidential elections, were approached by women wearing hijabs who questioned why their wardrobe choices should be entwined with politics.
A lady in hijab approached Le Pen as she navigated among fishmongers and sellers to greet supporters at a farmers’ market in the southern town of Pertuis. “What is the headscarf doing in politics?” the lady asked.
Le Pen defended her stance, describing the headscarf as a “uniform imposed over time by people who have a radical vision of Islam.” “That’s not true,” the woman countered. “I started to wear the veil when I was an older woman … For me, it is a sign of being a grandmother.”
On Friday, Macron, too, got into a heated debate with a woman wearing a hijab on France-Info. He attempted to distance himself from Le Pen by claiming that he would not modify any legislation, but he backed the present ban on hijab in schools as part of France’s secular ideals.
Sara El Attar, the lady, said she was offended by Macron’s past remarks in which he implied that the hijab destabilises male-female relationships.
Macron, on the other hand, attempted to defend his record. “The issue of the hijab is not an obsession for me,” Macron remarked.
It should be noted that Le Pen has declared that if she is elected, wearing an Islamic headscarf in public in France should be a crime punishable by a fine imposed by the police, similar to a traffic infringement.
Though the hijab is an issue in this election, Macron has also been accused of inciting anti-Muslim prejudice due to his stern stance on what the government refers to as “radical Islamism.” Following a wave of incidents linked with radical Islamists in late 2020, Macron pushed through a slew of counter-measures.
Meanwhile, Macron has exploited her tenacity to argue that Le Pen’s policies are no different than those of her father, Jean-Marie, and his radical National Front (FN).