The presence of Maryam Pougetoux, vice-president of the student union Unef and veiled Muslim, invited by a committee of the National Assembly, Thursday, was not appreciated by some right-wing deputies and an elected LREM. They left the scene in protest, accusing the young woman of “a deliberate communitarian act”.
The veil of this young French girl, invested in student life, is once again at the center of a controversy. Invited to the National Assembly, as part of a hearing on the effects of the Covid-19 crisis on youth, Maryam Pougetoux, vice-president of the left-wing student union UNEF, was strongly attacked, Thursday, September 17, by some LR deputies and a elected LREM.
Several parliamentarians left the room with a crash to express their indignation at the presence of the young muslim veiled. After the speech of Maryam Pougetoux, the deputy of Pas-de-Calais (LR) Pierre-Henri Dumont, making a “point of order”, rebelled against the veil worn by the student, believing that it was a “deliberate communitarian act” which infringed “the principle of secularism to which our Assembly must adhere”.
Yet there is no law requiring this young Muslim woman to remove her veil after crossing the steps of the National Assembly, just as it is allowed in “public space”. Deploring a bad trial, the president of the commission, the elected representative of Haute-Garonne, Sandrine Mörch, reminded her colleagues that “no rule forbids[sait] the wearing of a religious symbol for the interviewees “.
Anne-Christine Lang, Member of Parliament for Paris and the only LREM representative to have joined the LR elected representatives outside the room, does not agree. “As a member of parliament and feminist, attached to republican values, # secularism and # women’s rights, I cannot accept that a person comes to participate in our work at the # AN in hijab, which remains for me a mark of submission, “she said in a tweet.
Latifa Ibn Ziaten booed for her veil
As representative of the UNEF, Maryam Pougetoux was invited to this hearing, along with counterparts from other unions, to be heard on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on students in France. These exchanges should feed the work of a new commission of inquiry created “to measure and prevent” the effects of this crisis “on children and youth”, on the initiative of the Communist deputy Marie-George Buffet, from Seine -Saint-Denis, who is the rapporteur.
“To attack a veiled student, elected representative of the UNEF and prevent her from representing students in the National Assembly is neither feminist nor republican, it is Islamophobic!” Unef president Mélanie Luce retorted on twitter. She said she regretted that her sidekick who “came to talk about a serious matter” was only noticed for her veil.
The president of the commission, Sandrine Mörch, recalled, for her part, that she would not let “this false debate around the veil enter this commission, supposed to work on the future and the present of the youth, in a situation very complicated “.
Yet Maryam Pougetoux is not the first veiled woman invited to speak at the National Assembly. Latifa Ibn Ziaten, mother of soldier Imad Ibn Ziaten, assassinated by the terrorist Mohammed Merah in 2012, spoke at a meeting on secularism. But this time again, the veil had aroused strong reactions. Two conference attendees left the room after booing the mother.
Macron camps divided
Following the incident on Thursday, several deputies called for a toughening of the rules authorizing the wearing of religious symbols in parliamentary space, including deputy Anne-Christine Lang, who put forward the idea “that the we are rid of all religious symbols when we come to address the national representation “with, as a result, a change in the regulations.
This quarrel over the wearing of the veil brings a debate which has divided French society since the affair of the “Creil scarves” in 1989, those of three adolescent girls excluded from college. First controversy over the Islamic veil. It resurfaces this time, a few weeks away from a bill against separatism, scheduled for the fall, the debates of which promise to be heated, as the subject arouses dissensions within the LREM party on questions of secularism and diversity.
“If from a moment the national representation chooses not to hear the French diversity, I would be very very embarrassed”, reacted the Macronist deputy of Ille-et-Vilaine Gaël le Bohec, in disagreement with the attitude of colleagues.
A position shared by LREM deputy from Marseille, Saïd Ahamada, on twitter: “I dissociate myself from the decision to boycott these deputies! This student has not broken any laws. No matter what you think of the veil, we as members of Parliament must set an example by respecting the law, and accept the contradiction ”.
I dissociate myself from the decision to boycott these deputies! This student did not break any law. No matter what one thinks about the veil, we as members of Parliament must lead by example by obeying the law, and accept the contradiction. It is characteristic of a democracy https://t.co/dxIzDNcRLW
– Said Ahamada (@saidahamada) September 17, 2020
“I wouldn’t have acted like my colleague [Anne-Christine Lang]. In matters of secularism, we must respect the law, the whole law, nothing but the law. We must not hysterize the debates ”, estimated for his part the general delegate of LREM, Stanislas Guérini, pointing to“ a kind of media trap in which we systematically enter and where each one will go with his strongest word. ”
Social media harassment
Too late, the incident which lasted only a few minutes, Thursday morning, has already passed the walls of the Bourbon Palace and agitates social networks. As much as Maryam Pougetoux had already been to the cœheart of a controversy in 2018 when several political figures, including Marlène Schiappa, then Secretary of State for Gender Equality, criticized the Unef for having appointed a veiled student as spokesperson at the time.
The ex-Minister of the Interior, Gérard Collomb, then judged “shocking” that the leader of the UNEF wears an Islamic veil and denounced a form of “proselytism”. Words that Maryam Pougetoux had judged “pathetic on the part of a Minister of the Interior” and “violent”. The young activist, great-granddaughter of French resistance fighters, then explained wearing the veil “by choice, by religious conviction, but with respect for the law, with respect for others”. “Knowing that my veil has no political function. It’s my faith. After yes, it is visible, but it is not for all that proselytism. I almost have to justify myself for my choice when I shouldn’t, ”she said on Buzzfeed, after having remained silent for several days.
This time again, the 20-year-old student remains silent. “She has already suffered a huge wave of harassment in 2018, with the publication of her address on social networks etc. Despite everything, she retained the courage to continue to invest in the students, so we are scandalized to see that this is happening again, and all because of the deputies confuse secularism and Islamophobia ”, regrets the president of the UNEF.