A video first published by Le Parisien and shot on Saturday shows French police arresting women in the Place du Trocadéro in Paris apparently just for wearing headscarves.
Le Parisien explained that France’s Interior Minister had ordered a prohibition on any demonstrations amid tight security restrictions on French diplomatic missions abroad as the French magazine Charlie Hebdo published caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.
According to Le Parisien (my translation):
In Paris, the order for “firmness” from the Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, to prevent any demonstrations, were scrupulously applied, sometimes zealously. In the capital, fifty persons “who did not respect the prohibitions” were arrested and quickly released. On the Trocadéro square, which was surrounded by about thirty police vehicles, and police in riot gear, women in headscarves, some of them tourists, were asked to leave the area. One of them, her head covered in a black hijab [headscarf], shouted, “I’m fed up with laïcité” as she was taken away by police. Many people of North African origin were also made to show their identity cards, but despite some tension there were no incidents.
It is interesting that Le Parisien does not consider the systematic racist harassment of Muslim women and North Africans itself to be a shocking “incident.”
Laïcité is the french word, often translated as “secularism.” The French state is laïc – meaning it is separated from the church and other religions. However, in practice laïcité has increasingly become – as the woman being arrested signalled – synonymous with Islamophobia.
Last year, France outlawed women covering their faces completely, but simply wearing a headscarf – as millions of Muslim and non-Muslim women do – is perfectly legal.
But, in recent days – as Islamphobia continues to rise – Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front party called for a ban on headscarves worn by Muslim women and skullcaps worn by Jewish men.