HIJAB PROTEST DAY
PROTEST AGAINST THE HIJAB BAN IN FRANCE
[French Embassy, London, UK.
Saturday 17th January 2004]
1000s protest against the french ban on hijab
Saturday April 17th, saw demonstrations against the french ban on hijab in over 30 countries across the world. Here we cover the demonstration which took place outside the French embassy in London.
Muslims from all backgrounds and races united under Hijab
The London demonstration consisted of two parts, one marching from Marble Arch through central London to the embassy, whilst the other staying at the embassy, laying seige to it, with over 20 speakers addressing the crowds. The day was a great success with thousands attending, some having travelled several hundred miles to attend. Many different Muslim groups with differing agendas and outlooks came together, all united in solidarity with their sisters and brothers in France.
A young Muslim girl expresses herself:
Hijab: My Right - My Choice - My Life
The ban on hijab was challenged on several levels. Some argued the issue as a human rights voilation - denying a woman her right to practice her religion by denying her the right to wear hijab, MAB banners refering to "hijab our choice" and "hijab our right".
SalmaYacoob, of the Brimingham Stop the War Coalition, put it in the wider context of the war against Muslims: "This attack on our hijab is just the latest on the so called war on terror".
"Secularism has failed the world"
Others, like Sarah Joseph, looked at the ideological base for this attack on Muslims and recognised in it the true face of secularism: "And you are fighting and standing up against the tyranny of fundamental secularism. The tyranny of fundamental secularism that would remove the voice of religion from society". Practically every banner of
also refered to secularism: "Hijab ban unveils secular fundamentalism" - "Secularism dishonours women" - "Secularism has failed the world" - "Muslims in Britain challenge secularism".
Dorothy Peart, a Roman Catholic Nun, who addresed the crowds agreed: "I believe this is all part of a move to eliminate God from society be they Christian or Muslim.. The new world order of the secular state without God is going to be a horrible place, a tyranny, there would be no freedom, no freedom to worship God.."
United in Hijab, a Roman Catholic nun
holds up a hijab in solidarity
Many banners pointed to the hypocrisy and short comings of other core western values which people have been taught not to question. With the rise of fascism in France, polls show that 70% of the french population favour the persecution of Muslims in France and the banning of the hijab. One banner declared "If this is democracy we say non-merci!". Another banner pointed at the hypocrisy: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Where is it gone?"
"If this is democracy - We say non-meci!"
The Green Party Euro MP Caroline Lucas attacked the ban: "The proposed ban is an affront to civil liberties, the freedom to practice one’s religion, the freedom of expression. These are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Further she reappraised Chirac reason for not going to war with Iraq: "This proposed ban makes it clearer than ever that President Chirac’s reasons for not going along with Bush and Blair had nothing to do with opposing irrational islamophobia..."
Milena Buyum, Vice Chair, National Assembly Against Racism, reminded people that just recently 6 million French people voted for fascism. She described the french legislation as "racist" and and said "we must absolutely stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim brothers and sisters against this racist oppression".
George Galloway, independent MP, said socialists - leftists - and progressives in particular have a "historic responsibility to stand by the Muslim people of France against this wicked proposal of Chirac to tear the hijab from the heads of young and old Muslim women in France!"
A letter expressing Muslim outrage at the french hijab ban
was hand delivered to the French Embassy
Louise Hutchins of the Students Assembly Against Racism refered to the French ban on the hijab as "institutionalisation of religious discrimination - its racism disguised as progression" and she placed it in its proper context: "We must be clear also that this attack in France is happening in the context of rising islamophobia and racism right across Europe." She also blasted sections of the left who have sided with Chirac : "We know that in Britain already sections of the so called left, the progressive people are endorsing this ban, and we must stand against that."
Kate Hudson from CND in a message read out on her behalf described the french ban as "a negation of tolerance and respect and it constitutes an assault on freedom of conscience and religious practice."
The spokesperson for United Against Fascism, a national coalition which has the backing of all major trade unions (21 general secretaries) and cross party support of over 50 MPs, talked about french fascism and described the french hijab ban as "racist victimisation of muslim women's right to wear the head scarf".
On the front line of state islamophobia :-
Muslim girls wearing the Hijab
In sharp contrast to the infamous Liberal Democrat MP Dr.Evan Harris, who has vocally supported the hijab ban, another Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather, in a message read out on her behalf, defended a Muslim womans right to wear hijab: "When Muslim women are told not to wear the hijab they are losing part of their freedom. We must protest against the loss of freedom wherever it occurs. That is why it is so important that we speak out against those who are curbing the rights of Muslim women."
Lynne Hubbard from the Birmingham Trade Union Council delivered a powerful message of solidarity on behalf of the trade unions of Birmingham: "Birmingham trade union council say we have a responsibility to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and give a clear message to Tony Blair that just in the way we were not divided in the anti-war movement we will not be divided over the question of hijab. It is our responsibility to defend all women's right to wear it". She compared the attack on Muslims with that on Irish people in the 70s and demanded "every trade unionist should support women's right to wear the hijab".
Muslims speakers addressing the crowd
Rajinara Akhtara, from the Friends of Al-Aqsa, pointed out that even though the Palestinians have been suffering oppression and occupation for the past 55 years, largely forgotten by the Muslims of the world, on this day the women of Gaza poured out on to the streets to demonstrate, to show their support and solidarity for us - the Muslims of Europe.
Abjoh Miah of the Islamic Forum Europe talked of the need to communicate with non-Mulims: "There are many non-Muslims who do not understand the issue, we need to take the information to them, when we go back to our communities, to our colleges, to our universities we must start the debate, must start the discussion."
A Sikh protestor carrying a placard showing Sikhs in France
as part of the Indian army fighting for french
freedom during the
first world war.
The caption underneath reflects todays payback:
"2004, French Sikhs fight for their freedom to wear the turban"
The Sikh community were well represented at the demonstration. Theirs is a very tragic case. The french government in its persecution of Muslims has cast a wide net to create the facade of "equal discrimination" and unwittingly the small Sikh community in France have been caught in this net. Realising this, the Sikh community are hoping for a french reprieve and are vary of being too closely associated with the Muslim protests. In France they pulled out of the demonstration at the last minute, and here in the UK whilst they were brave enough to attend, and in good numbers, their spokeswoman - Mejindarpal Kaur - however insisted it was not a protest: "we are not protestors because we believe we have a right, and the right will be given. We only protest when we think someone has done something deliberately. I think the french government is mistaken about this law and that good sense will prevail."
1 2 3 4
Stop Chiracs racist law
5 6 7 8
Chirac wants a racist state
Stop this racist law
before they make some more
You havent got the right
to stop our way of life
You havent got the right
to stop our human rights
If this is demcoracy
then we say non-merci
We say non-merci
to this phoney democracy
Banning the hijab
even bush ain't that daft
The square metre of cloth that is apparently threatening the french state rests upon a placard which reads "Hijab Our Choice"
"Hijab Our Choice"
Defending the rights of Muslims
From the Jewish community, Rabbi Margaret Jacobi and Rabbi Mark Goldsmith sent their messages of solidarity : "We join with our Muslim brothers and sisters in protest at the legislation which will ban the wearing of religious symbols in French schools. We consider that the legislation is a blow to religious freedom and human rights.."
What was particularly moving for Muslims was to see so many non-Muslims giving up their Saturday to stand in solidarity with them. Perhaps this was the most important message of the day, both for Muslims and the onlooking French government : The Muslims are not alone.
should not be denied
we want stand back
"HIJAB OUR CHOICE"
Apparently one excuse secularists have come up with to justify the hijab ban is to suggest that no woman would choose to wear hijab - it must be have been forced on them by men!
1000s marched from Marble Arch to converge on the French Embassy
Raghad Osama, MAB representative.
"..I feel frustrated my dear friends, my dear sisters and brothers of being told time and time again that I am wearing my hijab because I am either oppressed or suppressed..
My 8 year old daughter asked me 'Can I wear my scarf?'. I told her not yet, when you grow older. One day she felt sad and said 'I should be able to wear what I want like everybody else'. The answer really hit me hard and it made me think that if I dress my daughter in a mini skirt or a strapless dress I would probably get some comments on how good she is looking, but if I allowed my daughter to wear a scarf society would look at her thinking - forced by her parents, wrapped in despair - dismissing her own feelings. I decided there and then that it should be my daughters happiness and confidence that I should be looking at and that it should matter to me the most.."
A fact the french government chooses to ignore:
"HIJAB - an obligation - not a religious symbol"
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP for the South East of England.
I bring you greetings from the Green Party. It is fantastic to see you here, and we are here to send a very clear message to President Chirac, and that message is that he and his government must stand up for human rights, he must stand up for the rights of Muslims, he must stand up for the rights of a truley multicultural society.
The proposed ban is an affront to civil liberties, the freedom to practice one’s religion, the freedom of expression. These are cornerstones of civil liberty, they date back to the French revolution and before. Not only that, they're also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 18 of that declaration says:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom ...either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
This is a basic issue of human rights and thats another reason we are here today. The personal decision, freely taken, to wear hijab is central to freedom of religion. Women and girls who have chosen to wear Hijab as an essential part of their Islamic beliefs and culture, should not be forced to suffer under a ban calculated to create religious and ethnic discrimination.
President Chirac says, “There is of course no question of turning schools into a place of uniformity, of anonymity.” Yet his version of secularism seeks to make everyone the same – so clothes that are a visible part of an individual’s expression of faith cannot be worn.! “Islam,” he says, “completely has its place among the major religions present on our soil.” But how can Islam take its equal place among the religions of France when women cannot wear Hijab, which for many is central to their life as a Muslim.
A young Muslim girl defends her hijab.
Hijab is freedom - not oppression
We applauded President Chirac when he refused to sign up to the anti-Islamic rhetoric of Bush and Blair’s phoney ‘war on terror’, when he refused to be part of the illegal and immoral attack on Iraq. But this proposed ban makes it clearer than ever that President Chirac’s reasons for not going along with Bush and Blair had nothing to do with opposing irrational Islamophobia. With this misguided ban President Chirac will end up pandering to the agenda of the racist right.
The dangers of religious intolerance, bigotry and hatred were brought home to me last week. I visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories and I was shocked by what I saw - the systematic humiliation of the Palestinian people, and the abuse of their human rights - even their lives - on a horrific scale.
When the President talks of “Respect, tolerance, the spirit of dialogue;” he tries to use the language of the open, inclusive society. Yet at the heart of true multiculturalism is the idea that people should be able to live in different ways and to express themselves differently and fully. A truly multicultural society does not feel threatened by the clothes people wear or the religion they follow, or the lifestyle they choose; it welcomes and embraces difference, and we call on President Chirac to do that as well.
That is why I have joined so many others across the globe and written to the French Ambassador to say enough is enough.
That is why my European Parliament colleagues from the French Green Party have campaigned tirelessly against the ban.
That is why France’s 5 million or more Muslims are reminding French politicians that they have votes and they will use them.
So our message today is that the french government must abandon this plan, it must learn respect for Muslims, it must learn respect for freedom of religion and expression and respect for a genuinely tolerant, multicultural society.
I wish you every success."
"Defend the Hijab"
"Hijab - Our choice Our right"
Ghada Radzuki, Stop the War Coalition.
"First of all I want to say from the Stop the War Coalition that we stand side by side with Muslim women and defend their rights to wear the hijab is they wish.
On Kilroy Silk:
This man called Robert Kilroy Silk who said of Arab people 'few of them have made much contribution to the welfare of the rest of the world'. Well let me tell you what Arabs have given to the rest of the world, they have given numbers, they have given the alphabet, and they have given optics. And what has Kilroy Silk given to the world? He has given a grotty article in the Sunday Express, an awful daytime show...
He also says about the Arabs, 'they are suicide bombers, limb amputators, and women oppressors'. Well the people oppressing women in France, are the people who work in that embassy [France] over there..
He said 'Arabs should go down on their knees and thank God for the magnificients of the USA in liberating the Iraqi people'. Well let me tell you what that 'liberation' has cost. It has cost the lives of 10,000 Iraqis.
And I am here to say for the Stop the War Coalition that on the 28th of January when Lord Hutton reports we have called for a lobby of Parliament when Tony Blair will make a statement as to why he took this country to war. A war that most people in this country: black, white, Muslim, non-Muslim, Jews, Christians, non-believers, oppose.
To start the year with Robert Kilroy Silk resigning, I say good riddence to bad rubbish, lets end this year with Tony Blair resigning as well.
On the front line - Muslim girls wearing the Hijab
Director of United Sikhs, followed by Harpartap Singh, from the United Sikhs.
"A very good morning to all of you. I've come here from the Sikh community. I was told how come you look all alike, and I said its no coincidence, we are all human beings aren't we.
The issue here is to show solidarity to a belief. I don't have to be a Sikh, I don't have to be a Muslim, but if I believe in the right of another, and a very french man
- Rousseau -
said that, and well before
Rousseau a Sikh guru has said that he will fight for the right of another. Today the rights of all people in France is at stake. We are here to appeal to the better sense of the french government, we are not protestors because we believe we have a right, and the right will be given. We only protest when we think someone has done something deliberately. I think the french government is mistaken about this law and that good sense will prevail.."
"Leave My Munny's Hijab Alone"
Milena Buyum, Vice Chair, National Assembly Against Racism.
"Hello everybody, Assalaamu Alaikum.
I am very pleased to be standing here and speaking to you today, and I'm absolutely delighted by the turnout.
Because make no mistake the situation in France today is a disaster for everyone in France, not just Muslims. This situation has not just happened overnight either. I used to live in France for about 8 years - the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 1990s. This issue of the hijab was alive then, and it is very much alive now. It happens today in the way of a right wing government introducing a racist piece of legislation. Because only two years ago 6 million French people voted for fascism. It could not have happened otherwise. And the confusion and the disarray of the left in France is also the result of the rise of fascism in France, and it is a disaster. Its a disaster that's spreading around as well.
Make no mistake either - in Belgium, in Denmark, in many other European countries, and also in Britain there will be people who will want to push the same racist pieces of legislation as well. And we must absolutely stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim brothers and sisters against this racist oppression - there is no other way to describe it. That what hypocrisy when some so called 90% of this population stood and spoke supposedly out for Robert Kilroy Silks right to express his racism and will not actually come out by there millions to speak in favour of women's right to choose to wear the hijab.
I am absolutely confident that the anti-racism movement and the labour movement in this country will make the right choice - the choice of defending Muslim brothers and sisters right to express their religious beliefs, in freedom, this is what a multicultural society needs. It is the opposite of assimilation and so called integration, its allowing communities to be themselves and to express themselves, to participate fully in society. I would like to finish by saying that the threat of fascism is very much rife here as well.
We in the national assembly against racism have joined up with many others including the anti-nazi league, many in the trade union movement, to oppose the rise of the BNP here. The BNP which targets specifically Muslim communities up and down the country. And 10th of June is a key date you must put in your diaries and register to vote by the middle of April in order to express your opposition to this very real threat here today.
Thank you very much, and I commit the National Assembly Against Racism's full support for your campaign and when ever we are needed we will come to support you and help you.
Thank you very much."
"I came from Leeds 2 Tell u THIS IS NOT FAIR!"
Sarah Joseph, activist and editor of Emel, the Muslim lifestyle magazine.
"I begin in the name of God, the most merciful, most kind.
A law such as this starts one of two things. It either forces people to hide - to button down the hatches - to ignore what they are and in fear submit to the oppression, or it does the opposite - it says no I have a choice to make here and I will make the choice - stand up and be counted. And it forces people to unite against the oppression and the injustice.
Look around you today, look around at the many hundreds of people gathered here. They are not all hijab wearing Muslim sisters. You have got people here who are not Muslims. You have got people who are socialists, Christians, Jews, Sikhs - you have a whole group of Sikhs defending their right to wear the turban, you've got Stop the War here, you've got CND here, you've got George Galloway here. You have united against this oppression, you have united regardless of whether you are a signed up Majibah - hijab wearing sister - or not.
"Secularism has failed the world"
And you are fighting and standing up against the tyranny of fundamental secularism. The tyranny of fundamental secularism that would remove the voice of religion from society. That goes on saying you have no right to say anything about religion in society, religion has nothing to do with politics, religion has nothing to do with a moral voice, religion has nothing to do or say in public - do it behind your own closed doors.
This law that the french and the germans - don't forget Bavaria has already granted this law- Bavaria has already submitted - the whole of federal germany could submit to it as well. Don't forget that this is not just France. It could be Germany, it could be a whole host of states across Europe. This is about the right to have religion as a public voice - the right to speak about God in society - the right to say that religion has an opinion, its not just about the right to wear a 3 foot square of fabric.
Join together, do not be pushed out, not just join together as Muslims, but join together as people of conscience, as people of tolerance, as people of diversity, as people who want a plural society - not just a gaumless france that only has just one way of viewing the world.
Join together to fight secularism, there is a march just around the corner of secularists who say there should be no Islam in politics - fight that voice. It is not just about the hijab, it is not just about the turban, it is about ideology and it is something we must fight now and it is something we must win now, so do not give up. Do not stop until we change this law, and have a right to have religion in society, and the right to unite according to our own identity as we want to be identified.
Assalaamu Alaikum - peace be upon you all."
Amal Safour, 16 year old from London reads a letter she will be sending to her friend sister in France.
Its ironic how we live in the west. The west that boasts of its developed country and great civilization, and its protection of human rights. Yes, night and day on tv and schools we are taught of how the west holds the issue of human rights close to its heart - countries like the USA, Britain, and of course the country you live - France.
It is ironic that France, that was admired by many countries and people for refusing to participate in the american lead war on Iraq, one of the reasons being because of the violation of human rights, now violates the rights of its own citizens within its own borders!
Hijab is a part of every Muslim girl that chooses to wear it. She wears it because she want to cover herself up, be modest, be pure, be safe, be the way she wants to be, and to please her Lord, to be able to carry out the duties of the religion she has chosen to follow.
"Democracy or Hypocrisy?"
The hijab is not simply a symbol of Islam as the French government and many others see it. It is a way a Muslim girl puts herself, wants herself to be seen in the eyes of the community and a message to them about her personality, her ideology, and her beliefs, and without it she feels naked. Is it then right to strip her of something that leaves her naked?
It is possible to build a secular state that reflects what most people in that state agree to. However, it is not right to force somebody to do something they cannot bring themselves to do, it is not right to force them to change their beliefs and actions, to force a Muslim woman to take her scarf off. Even if it means only at school, education is something an individual has a right to and in Islam knowledge is something a Muslim must seek. Once again it is not right that the French government is forcing a Muslim girl to choose between two things. These two things are both important in our religion..."
"Allah o Akbar
la illah illalla
Muhammad rasool Allah
There is no god but Allah
Muhammad the messager
1 2 3 4
Stop Chiracs racist law
5 6 7 8
Chirac want a racist state"
George Galloway, independent Member of Parliament.
Brothers & sisters, comrades and friends
Peace be with you, and thank you for the opportunity of addressing this crowd of this important demonstration today.
I was in Liverpool last night and drove back here getting in at 3 o clock in the morning and now I am driving back up north to Preston for a public meeting, but I wouldn't have missed this occasion for the world because this is a stand which all right thinking people, what ever their religion, what ever their political views, should be associated with.
I am sorry to say, opposite the embassy of a country I admire, of a people I admire, that this decision of the right wing president of France is a stain on the government and people of France. And they have a responsibility, especially those who call themselves socialists, call themselves leftists, call themselves progressives. They have a historic responsibility now to stand by the Muslim people of France against this wicked proposal of Chirac to tear the hijab from the heads of young and old Muslim women in France!
You know, it starts of with the kind of racist drivel in the Sunday Express by Robert Kilroy Silk, it starts of with dressing up decisions such as this on the hijab as some kind of secular stand, it moves on to insults and assaults against Muslim people and property, and it ends up with bombs and missiles on Kabul, on Gaza, on Baghdad, and Basra, and we have to stand against it!
You know they like to say they have nothing the Muslims, even Kilroy Silk said it, George Bush says it, Tony Blair says it, but you know the americans have a phrase - if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, the chances are that it is indeed a duck!
And all these attacks against Muslims, their rights, their liberties, their countries, their peoples, looks pretty much like a quarrel with the Muslims of the world to me, and that's why I am proud to stand here today, and I am proud of all the non-Muslims that I can see around me in this crowd who have come here today to stand with you, I am proud to stand by the Muslim Association of Britain, by the Association of Muslim Women, with the Muslims of Britain and France, and around the world.
Thank you very much
"Muslims in Britain challenge Secularism"
Salma Yacoub, Stop the War Coalition.
This attack on our hijab is just the latest on the so called war on terror. We say no to war. No to war! No to war!
And I will tell you what the link is. If they hadn't done this war on terror they wouldn't have to be attacking the Muslims in Europe as well. They have to justify their lies. Stop uncovering Muslim women, lets start uncovering their lies - of Bush and Blair instead!
They said they are going in to Afghanistan to protect the rights of Muslim women - why are they taking away the rights of Muslim women right here, now?
The extremism of the taliban is no less acceptable that the extremism of the secular fundamentalists right here in Europe. No to extremism! No to extremism!
"Hijab Ban Symbolises War On Islam"
And I have a very simple message today to all my Muslim brothers and sisters and all my non-Muslim comrades and friends. For too long we've had to demonstrate, we've demonstrated for Afghanistan, we've demonstrated for Iraq, and now we say lets hit them where it hurts - and that's the vote. We have the European elections coming up - June 10th - less than five months away. And I say no vote for Labour. No vote for Labour! No vote for Labour!
Its time that we set an alternative, and we are forming a new Unity Respect Coalition, and every single person should take part in a pro-active sense - we are here demonstrating, we are here picketing, but we want to make sure that our views are represented and implemented, so we want implementation of what is right so please support us - June the 10th - every single person, you can make a difference, and lets stop the war on terror, stop the unjust wars and stop the attack on civil liberties right here, right now.
Louise Hutchins, Students Assembly Against Racism.
"I'd like to congratulate the organizers of this amazing event, I think its brilliant that so many people are here. I bring the greetings from the Student Assembly Against Racism. I am also on the national executive of the National Union of Students and wish to bring the greetings of the student movement and will be working to get the backing of the student movement for this campaign.
Its our view that the French ban on the hijab, and the Jewish kippa and other religious symbols is nothing short of saying something - institutionalisation of religious discrimination - its racism disguised as progression.
We know that this will have a particularly damaging effect on young people, on students and on our right to education, and the student movement has an important role to fight against these attacks. We must be clear also that this attack in France is happening in the context of rising islamophobia and racism right across Europe.
Its happening in France in the context of 6 million people voting for fascism and Chirac is just using the framework of fascism to push through this kind of legislation.
If Chirac wants to talk about the rights of women, and the rights of Muslim women, and about integration, if Chirac wants to help Muslim women in France, then he should give their communities the vote, he should give them jobs and he should end the poverty, and he should let women choose what they want to do.
"Freedom of Expression"
France should embrace multiculturalism, they should embrace diversity - not forced assimilation, and in Britain we must do that too.
We know that in Britain already sections of the so called left, the progressive people are endorsing this ban, and we must stand against that. we must unite, all anti-racists, all progressive people, all faiths, all students, we must unite and say no to such attacks.
We will be working - the Student Assembly Against Racism - will be working in the student movement to secure the full support of the student movement for your campaign. Congratulations on such an amazing demonstration - full support to you!"
"Hijab Ban Unveils Secular Fundamentalism"
Aisha Janjua, FOSIS, the Federation Of Student Islamic Societies:
"I begin in the name of Allah, the most beneficial, and the most merciful. He has given the Muslim woman a special honour and distinction.
Dear sisters, dear friends, dear supporters of freedom, we are now standing outside the embassy of a country so proud to call itself the home of liberty, equality and fraternity to the extent that in their history books they say that France was a beacon to the world. Now the proposals of Chirac will set an attack on any people who believes in these ideals.
As a Muslim woman I say that hijab is my liberty, as a Muslim woman I say that hijab does not compromise my equality.
If Chirac and company have their way they will destroy the liberty of a french system who are unable to express themselves, express a basic, basic aspect of their identity. No this is not secularism, this is an extremely paranoid form of secular fundamentalism that what's to convince us that a square metre of cloth threatens the existence of the great republic.
Hijab is not a fashion statement brothers and sisters, and friends. Nor is it a tool of oppression as we are, in the west, made to believe. As I look around me today I see an ocean of honourable women proud with regard to their modesty fulfilling their obligation to Allah and the Quran.
British Muslim students see themselves very much a part of the fabric of society and at FOSIS - the Federation Of Student Islamic Societies - we believe in forging a role for British Muslims. Yes we are Europeans and yes we are Muslims and we are proud to say we enjoy our fish and chips. We will keep striving no matter how Chirac and the others try to discourage us. Finally a message for our sisters in France - You are not alone, we feel your pain and share your outrage.
Takbir - Allaho Akbar!
Takbir - Allaho Akbar!
Takbir - Allaho Akbar!"
"Hijab Our Choice"
Rabbi Margaret Jacobi
A message of support from Rabbi Margaret Jacobi, Birmingham Progressive Synagogue, and Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, Finchley Progressive Synagogue, London, was read out at the protest:
"We join with our Muslim brothers and sisters in protest at the legislation which will ban the wearing of religious symbols in French schools. We consider that the legislation is a blow to religious freedom and human rights. We also consider it is destructive of a pluralist and cohesive society. Relations between people of different faiths and none is best achieved not by imposing unity but by respecting differences and learning to understand each other.
The great French Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas taught of our obligation to care and respect the 'other', who is our fellow human being. The legislation fails to respect the rights of others and, in the anger and resentment it causes, can only hinder relations between different groups in the future. We urge you to rethink.
Rabbi Margaret Jacobi,
Rabbi Mark Goldsmith"
Rajinara Akhtara, from the Friends of Al-Aqsa,
On the Palestinians:
"I represent Friends of Al-Aqsa, and we fight for the human rights of the Palestinians. As most of you know the suffering of the Palestinians has been continuing for the past 55 years, yet on this day our sisters on Palestine did not forget us, and despite the oppression they have suffered they are demonstrating in support in Gaza today because of the French legislation. And on the 5th of January, Palestinian women marched on the streets of Gaza protesting against the French decision..."
On the French decision:
"The french government banned the hijab, they said it represents an oppressive symbol. I stand here to tell you that I am not oppressed. As a free woman who chooses to wear the hijab they should have respect for my human rights and millions like me, they should abandon this ban. We are not asking or demanding anything from the French government accept that they should leave Muslim sisters alone to practice their religion as they wish..."
"Warning - Do Not Mess With My Pride!"
Kate Hudson (photo from an anti-war demo)
A statement was read out on behalf of Kate Hudson, of CND:
"We must stand together to resist the threats on individuals freedoms. This legislation is a negation of tolerance and respect and it constitutes an assault on freedom of conscience and religious practice. The future of humanity lies down the path of peace, justice, and mutual respect for each others faiths and beliefs. Together we must try to build such a society that tolerates no attacks on any one of our communities..."
"HIJAB - our Right"
A statement was read out on behalf of Sarah Teather, Member of Parliament (Liberal Democrats).
"To all those gathered today I want to offer my support. I also want to send my sincere apologies for being unable to join you in person. I hope that you will understand my reasons - I shall be meeting local people in my surgery today at the time of the demonstration to discuss problems they need my help with and I didn't feel that I could turn people away with problems at such short notice. Please be assured however that I am with you in spirit.
We must protest against the loss of freedom wherever it occurs. That is why it is so important that we protest for the rights of Muslim women. "
When Muslim women are told not to wear the hijab they are losing part of their freedom. In a recent case an Algerian-born student in France was instructed to remove her headscarf each day before entering her school; if she kept it on in school, the principal sent her home. She says that despite her good grades, she was rejected from a special educational track in retaliation for her religious beliefs. In frustration, she dropped out of school at 16, finishing high school by correspondence. Now 22, she said "Removing my headscarf was like tearing something away...I felt my rights were being abridged. There were students who wore all black and were part of a satanic sect, but nobody bothered them".
"HIJAB = Freedom"
I am a Liberal because I believe that freedom must be protected. I believe that each individual should have the right to express those things that are most important to them and to live their lives as they wish, as long as they are not causing real harm to others by doing so. But what harm can wearing a headscarf possibly bring to another? What harm could possibly be brought about by having a society where people peacefully follow the teachings of their faith and feel confident enough to demonstrate something which is so precious and personal to them to others around them? Allowing each individual to live their life in the way they have chosen brings diversity - difference - but that diversity brings a richness and colour to life. We must respect and uphold difference not bully our people into conformity.
I am proud that my Liberal Democrat colleagues have been fighting this issue in the European Parliament too. My colleague Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP** said "As a feminist and a liberal I am fighting for people to be able to do what they have freely chosen."
We must protest against the loss of freedom wherever it occurs. That is why it is so important that we speak out against those who are curbing the rights of Muslim women. Together with my colleagues in the European Parliament I shall do all that I can to bring attention to this issue and I call upon politicians at all levels to work with the Muslim community to bring an end to this unjust ruling.
Download (shift-click) speech (real audio 3:39 mins 450Kb)
* Note that this statement is in sharp contrast to those of fellow Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris who has vocally supported the hijab ban. On a BBC radio programme (29 Jan 2004) he compared hijab to a fashion accessory and said schools are entitled to ban them. When the interviewer asked him "is this ban not against the fundamental human right of freedom of religious practice?" he replied "no it isn't because it doesn't interfere with the right of religious practice, schools are for learning not for practicing religion". No doubt he would use this same secular fundamentalist argument to ban hijab from hospitals, places of work and all other public areas.
** Please note that Baroness Sarah Ludford is no friend of Muslims. As a proud member of Lib-Dem friends of Israel she has been Israels voice in the European Parliament. During the Jenin massacre she was celebrating with the Israeli EU ambassador the 54th anniversary of Israel. Few days later she visited Jenin as part of the EU fact finding delegation, there she tried to cover up the massacre. In the parliament she has blocked every attenpt by Europe to impose a boycott on Israel, and she has attacked the EU decision to investigate islamophobia saying they should instead concentrate on highlighting anti-semetism. She has even demanded France be prosecuted for allowing Muslims to slaughter animals without stunning during Eid!
On the front line - Muslim girls wearing the Hijab
Donna, United Against Fascism
Donna, a spokesperson for United Against Fascism:
"I am please to be with you today on behalf of United Against Fascism, which is a national coalition that has been launched recently to kerb the rising racism and fascism in Britain today.
The BNP wants to emulate the fascism in France by standing in the European elections in June this year and we want everyone to unite in opposition to the fascists - Muslims, Christians, socialists, all different people, trade unionists.
And what we've said is that its no coincidence that the racism in France on the back of the fact that Le Pen fascist party standing in elections in france as a mainstream party. If you see in France, you see the posters up on the bill boards of Le Pen fascist party and what we don't want the fascists in Britain to think they can stand on a racist platform with attacks on Muslims and attacks on asylum seekers, as a mainstream party putting on their suits ands act as if they are the voice of british people. What we want to show is solidarity of all british people to say that we do not stand for fascism, we do not stand for attacks on muslims, we do not stand for scapegoating asylum seekers.
I just want to say that the BNP in britain- fascist racist party- have 17 councilors in britain and intends to stand candidates in the europeans elections to have as its next platform to emulate what's happening in france. and we need to stand all together - muslims and non-muslims in a coalition against the BNP. There are many many trade union leaders that have sponsored united against fascism, faith groups up and down the country, anti-racist groups like the anti-nazi league and the national assembly against racism all joining together to say that fascists should be kicked out of britain, kicked out of france. Really we need to make sure that what's happening in france does not happen here as well. To give an example to the people in france of how to fight fascism and racism by all uniting together under united against fascism.
So far the TUC have given backing to the campaign, all major trade union leaders - 21 general secretaries, over 50 mp's - cross party support has been gained for this campaign. We have mass leaflets, we want to raise millions of pounds, millions of pounds to pay for millions of leaflets against the nazis in britain and we want to say no to fascism here, no to fascism in france, no to fascism and no to racist attacks and racist victimisation of muslim women's right to wear the head scarf."
Fighting for Hijab
Abjoh Miah, Islamic Forum Europe.
"Salaamu Alaikum brothers and sisters
From the Islamic Forum Europe, an organization that is all over europe, we have branches all over Europe. We like to thank everyone here today - Muslims and non-Muslim- being here to support this noble cause. I like to say alhamdullah to the sisters who have made a courageous stand here and are actually coming forward to take this campaign on as much as they can and we brothers would like to give them our support inshallah. We need to engage in this and support our sisters because they are on the front line of this jihad. This jihad is going to take place in europe and our sisters are on the front line.
Why are people scared of this material, why is france scared of this material? Who has made the hijab a political symbol? We have not made this a political symbol. This is the law that Allah subhanatala has given us, it is a duty, we are defending the farad [obligation] that Allah has given us. This is why we are here.
We are very thankful for all those people with common sense and decency to come on this campaign and support this. We are here outside the french embassy, from Islamic Forum we like to say we would like to come to France, we will mobilize the people from here, from all over Europe to come to france, and we will bring this campaign to you in your own back garden.
This is the first farada [Islamic obligation] they are trying to attack, there are many other issues that they are trying to attack as well. We as Muslims must stand up. There are many non-Muslims who do not understand the issue, we need to take the information to them, when we go back to our communities, to our colleges, to our universities we must start the debate, must start the discussion. There are many elderly mothers who could not come here, there salam is with you, their sacrifice is with you as well, and they pray for you. Many elderly people couldn't come here today because of their health.
Inshallah we are not alone in this struggle, inshallah we need to continue this and I am going to make this very strong. We need to pray to Allah subanatala, Allah give us the strength and spirit to continue, to make friends with the people who are here to support us and encourage us - lets talk, lets have dialogue, lets go back to our communities and start the discussion, lets starts out own little campaigns, lets work together as much as we can for this noble cause, inshallah Allah will reward us here and in the hereafter.
And if they are going to make this a political symbol, then it is because of them that they have made this a political symbol. So if they are scared of this hijab then let them be scared of this hijab. Now what they have done is that they are uniting the Muslims and the non-Muslims together for this nobel cause.
Abeer Pharaon, Muslim Women Society.
"I just had an interview with the BBC and they announced that these demonstrations today are taking place in 30 countries from Australia to Canada - all around the world.
Hijab is our right and we are not going to allow this right to go away, we want our right today! Today dear brothers and sisters, and all of you who came to support, we would like to say to you thank you for supporting our campaign. And we would like to announce that today is the start of an ongoing campaign all around the world. We are going to put our hands together and support each other because of human rights.
"HIJAB is our business!"
We would like to send a clear message to the french government that hijab is a human right for the Muslim woman and we are not going to let our right go away. These huge number of protestors around the world are saying the same message...
We believe the Muslim community is strong in this society all around Europe and we are not going to let this become weak. And we here in the UK are supported by different groups, we would like to thank them all, all who spoke today, and all who supported our cause..."
Muslim & Christian side by side, placard reads
"Christians against islamophobia and anti-semitism"
Dorothy Peart, Roman Catholic Nun,
"I come in my hijab, but I'm not a Muslim, I'm a Catholic nun. And I believe this is all part of a move to eliminate God from society be they Christian or Muslim. And it is only God that can make the new order that's worth living in. The new world order of the secular state without God is going to be a horrible place, a tyranny, there would be no freedom, no freedom to worship God who gave us everything. And this is why I have come to support the wearing of the hijab by the Muslim people."
"Hands Off Our Modesty"
"HIJAB - an obligation - not a religious symbol"
Lynne Hubbard, Birmingham Trade Union Council.
"I bring you a message of solidarity from the trade unions in Birmingham. The trade unions in Birmingham see this issue as absolutely crucial that every trade unionist should support women's right to wear the hijab!
We know that this attack on women has got nothing to do with an attack on secular education in france, secular education is not under attack, Muslims are under attack, as part of Bush & Blair & Chirac's war on terror and trade unionists have had their own experiences of being attacked.
Inside Birmingham we discussed the reasons why we were supporting this protest. In the 1970s Irish people were attacked and treated as if all Irish people were terrorists, and it was a complete lie and it was used to divide people. And people in Birmingham trade union council say we have a responsibility to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and give a clear message to Tony Blair that just in the way we were not divided in the anti-war movement we will not be divided over the question of hijab. It is our responsibility to defend all women's right to wear it, and stand shoulder to shoulder, and that's the message I give to you from Birmingham Trade Union Council."
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