‘Muslim women are being scapegoated’

Niqab wearer explains why she will continue to wear a veil, despite the new ban in France that came into force this week.

Anne [not her real name] (32) is French and lives in a village south of the Burgundy town of Mâcon. A mother of four, she converted to Islam at 18 and has worn the niqab for five years/

I’ve got a pregnancy scan on Friday. My doctor supports me wearing the niqab, but I’m not sure I’ll be allowed into the hospital. I could wear a medical facemask, bird-flu style. Other women have told me they’ll wear them to get round the ban and to keep their faces covered in state offices.

My husband, whose parents are Algerian, is afraid for me, but I won’t take the niqab off. I won’t change. That would be to renounce my values. I’m French, I was educated to believe in liberté, égalité, fraternité. My grandfather was an army officer on the beaches of Dunkirk and was imprisoned in Germany during the war. He always taught me: “If there’s an injustice in life, you can’t stay silent.”

I will still take my sons to football, collect my daughter from horse riding, shop in the organic store. In the countryside, people know me. I don’t think they’ll call the police if I go to the shops. I’m the only woman in a niqab in the village. I think there are only two of us in the whole of Mâcon.

‘I am home’
Three-quarters of women in a niqab won’t take it off. You either have to play a game of cat and mouse, dodging discrimination, or you don’t leave home.

For the last six months, I’ve felt a rise in Muslims being stigmatised. People in the street have said to me: “Go home.” I say: “I am home. My family have lived in this region since 1600.” I’ve stopped shopping at big hypermarkets. I noticed more aggression in the street as soon as [Nicolas] Sarkozy announced a consultation on the burqa. Suddenly, security guards started watching me, old women accused me of deliberately provoking them by standing in a queue. People look at my children differently. When we’re out and my husband calls me by my very French first name and maiden name, people are shocked. They realise they’ve fallen for a cliche and I’m not what they think.

In November I was stopped by police in Mâcon for driving in a niqab which they said “obstructed my vision”. One police motorbike went past me, no problem, but the second pulled me over and wanted to fine me for wearing a niqab. When I told him the law wasn’t in force yet he didn’t know what to do. Lots of drivers were committing all sorts of faults but he only stopped me and a Moroccan man.

‘France is stigmatising a whole faith’
Unfortunately, lots of people like me really don’t feel at home any more. I was fined €22, and I challenged it but my objection was rejected. I could have gone to a tribunal but I didn’t want to be lynched by the media.

I refute the current debate in France about women who convert, that they’re the most extremist, or psychologically disturbed. I’m not stupid, this is an intellectual decision. It had nothing to do with marriage, I married much later. The niqab ban isn’t the first injustice against Muslims in this country and it won’t be the last. It’s deliberately done to humiliate people. Muslim women are being scapegoated. France is stigmatising a whole faith, and we know from this country’s history that stigmatising a whole people never got us anywhere. – guardian.co.uk

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

Odd drop in how Covid-19 numbers grow

As the country hunkers down for a second week of lockdown, how reliable is the data available and will it enable a sound decision for whether South Africans can leave their homes on April 16?

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders