Islamophobia supported by secularism in France

Muslim women protest France Hijab ban and islamophobia. (Flickr Creative Commons)

The French Senate recently passed a measure that would ban anyone under the age of 18 from wearing a hijab in public. Although it is unlikely that this will become a part of French law,the passing of this measure touches on a much larger debate within french society and politics: secularism.
France is a secular country, similar to the United States. They support and enforce the separation of church and state to maintain peace in a more diverse society, and allow people to practice their religion freely, like the First Amendment of the United States Constitution states. Additionally and unlike in the US, while on duty, public servants are prohibited from wearing religious symbols, as they are supposed to be seen as neutral by the public. In public schools, students are only supposed to discreetly wear religious symbols, so the school remains a neutral space and so students are not influenced by others. This secularism, however, has lately faced criticism for its discrimination against Muslim people. The hijab is viewed as a religious symbol, creating the debate over where and when it should and should not be worn. However, enforcing rules on hijab wearing goes against a main component of secularism itself — freedom to practice one’s religion freely. This debate, particularly the side of restricting ability to wear a hijab, just is another tool used to oppress Muslim people in an already islamophobic and xenophobic country. While separation of church and state and allowing people to practice their religion freely should absolutely be supported and practiced, there is a line between keeping religion on the more private realm while still allowing free practice and actively infringing on how and when people can practice and show their religion, particularly when it is used to ostracize a population already targeted within the country.