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The Veil Debate is Reignited in France

Julien Odoul, hijab

Woman at the general assembly comforting her son after having been asked to leave.

France is a democratically governed country celebrated the world over for its luxury artisans and also for upholding its patriotic values of “liberty, equality, and brotherhood.” A largely Christian country, that is today home to people following various religious faiths, since 1905, it adopted a secular law separating church from state.

On October 11th, in Dijon, France Julien Odoul, elected politician and president of the right wing “Groupe Rassemblement National” to the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté regional committee requested of the president of the assembly, Marie-Guite Dufay, to demand of a woman sitting in the room to remove her veil.

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“I’m going to ask you please, in the name of our secular principles, to ask the accompanying woman who entered the room to remove her Islamic veil please. We are in a public building, we are in a democratic indication. She can wear it at her home, in the street, but not here, not today. So please, in the name of our Republic principles, also in the name of women all over the world who fight to remove themselves from Islamic dictatorship, I ask you to ask this person to remove her veil. (…) This is the law of the Republic. No ostentatious signs.”

Soon afterward, images of the veiled mother comforting her crying son went viral, and the actions incited heated debate in Europe, with Odoul appearing on Europe 1 television channel confirming that he had no regrets. President Dufay announced on October 13th that such language incited hate and that she had decided to inform the public prosecutor. She expressed that she would meet the Moroccan mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, in private and offered her full support to the adults and children who had been attending the session on a school visit.

Ministers Jean-Michel Blanquer and Sibeth Ndiaye condemned the incident. “Who is he to stigmatize a woman who accompanies children on a school outing,” said Ndiaye, government spokesperson, on France 3 television channel. Nicolas Bay, who is from the same party as Odoul, and is an elected European Deputy, stated that Odoul’s actions were unnecessarily hurtful and aggressive.

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