France and the Hijab

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The Muslim headscarf (hijab) possesses its religious significance from the Qur’an, which is the Word of God told by the Prophet Muhammad. Though the specificities of how much the headscarf covers varies in different countries, those who choose to wear it use the Qur’an as a source of God’s command. The variance of how much the headscarf should cover arises from the different interpretations of a vary vague quote in the Koran that addresses this issue: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms…” Through self-interpretation, these coverings can range from a simple headscarf (only covers the hair) to an Afghani burqa (covers the entire body, only leaving a mesh screen for the woman to see). The significance of the hijab for Muslim women who wear it varies greatly. For some, it is a way of demonstrating dedication to Islam; for others, it symbolizes worship and identity. Another interpretation reveals that “the purpose of the hijab is not to constrain women or to represent women’s inferiority,” which is a common interpretation of the hijab, “…[but] rather, it is to be worn as a protection from the gaze of males and to avoid being judged based on appearances.” On February 10th, 2004, the National Assembly in France banned the wearing of all religious symbols, the Muslim headscarf (hijab) being their primary target, by students attending public, primary, and secondary schools. The passing of this legislation stirred a controversy related to weather this law infringes on a populations basic human rights as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In this article, the freedom of expression, to an education, and to a manifestation of religion in practice and observance as outlined in articles 18, 19, and 27 of the UDHR, respectively,...
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