SA Muslim groups complain to French Ambassador about France’s plan to ban girls under 18 from wearing hijab

The French Government has been urged to reconsider, not just the proposed laws, but also the way it views Islam and Muslims, writes Ismail Suder

The South African Muslim Network (SAMNET) representing many Islamic organizations and prominent individuals have written a strongly-worded letter to the French Ambassador in Pretoria to express its horror at the French Government’s proposal to ban girls under 18 from wearing the hijab in public.

SAMNET, representing the Islamic collective, told French Ambassador Aurellien Lechevallier, that the proposed amendment to the “separatism Bill” was disappointing.

“It appears, most unfortunate, that France is intent on exclusive and specific discrimination against the second largest religious group in the world and its Muslim citizens in particular. Equality and liberty are paramount in the French constitution and to the French People. Why should it not include your Muslim citizens, unless you consider French Muslims to be unwanted, not unlike the way Jewish people were considered unwanted in Europe and were forced to flee to Muslim lands to seek refuge during the pogroms of anti-Semitism.”

The signatories to the letter pointed out that the proposed laws – following on previous laws banning hijab and other discriminatory anti-Muslim laws – serve only to entrench divisions, radicalize people and produce anger and disillusionment against the French state, as well as the secular nature of France.

“This provides fertile ground for extremism. France cannot wish the legacy of its colonial past in Muslim majority lands away and neither can you wish about 3.5 million French Muslims away.

“Research shows and practical implementation in countries like New Zealand and South Africa proves that laws and mores that recognise and celebrate religious and cultural diversity, produce patriotic and blossoming minority communities. The corporate world is replete with examples of how diversity management produces happier, more productive and innovative workers.

“The success of past and present Muslim French footballers is but a small example of the potential within your Muslim communities that can be unleashed given the correct conducive environment.

“If, ostensibly, the anti-Muslim laws are in response to fear of radicalism, then driving your French Muslims into laagers and treating their religion with scorn and recrimination will only serve to produce the fertile grounds for the very issues you ostensibly fear. The opposite is all-true.

They informed the Ambassador that the Muslim communities “in countries where they are free to practise their religion and feel treated like equals have no time nor support for the likes of ISIS or other extremists who abuse religion for nefarious acts”.

“We would like you to pass on our message to your government in the hope that it will reconsider not just the proposed laws but also the way it views Islam and Muslims.”

Some of the signatories included the following: United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA); Muslim Judicial Council (MJC); House of Ummah; Muslim Youth Movement; The Gordon’s Bay Islamic Society; Minara Chamber of Commerce; Islamic Propagation Center; Islamic Movement for a United South Africa (MUSA); Humanitarian Development Alliance SA (HUDASA); Natal Memon Jamaat (NMJ); The Jamiatul Ulama; Midlands Islamic Da’wah Movement; Tshwane Gauteng Chatsworth & Surrounding Districts Muslim Forum; Amanzimtoti Muslim Association; The Muslim Woman Magazine; Nylstroom Muslim Community; As-Salaam Educational Institute; Ansarul Ummah-til -Islam; Queensburgh Islamic Society; Union of Arab Community South Africa; Chatsworth Islamic Forum; Imam Development Program; Springs Islamic Institute; Qaasimul-ilm Foundation; Southern Africa Dawah Network; M A Motala Education Centre; Voice of the Cape; Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat Islamic Forum; Madrassah Rahmanniyya Trust; Greenpeace Local group (Durban) and Awaaz Magazine (Nairobi, Kenya).

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