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UK’s first hijab-wearing MP calls on UK’s ambassador to France to condemn hijab ban

14th May 2021
UK’s first hijab-wearing MP calls on UK’s ambassador to France to condemn hijab ban

Elham Asaad Buaras

Apsana Begum, MP, has rallied 28 parliamentarians and called on the UK’s outgoing ambassador to France to condemn the country’s hijab ban for under-18s.

The French parliamentarians voted on March 30 to ban the public wearing of the hijab for those under 18, burkinis in public and the hijab for those accompanying children on school trips. The votes do not yet mean the bans will become law, but they reflect the majority sentiment of the French Upper House.

In the letter dated April 23 and co-signed by the former Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, former Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Dawn Butler and Shadow Attorney General Baroness Shami Chakrabarti – Begum urges Ed Llewellyn to publicly condemn the legislation passed by the French Senate.

Begum, 30, who became the UK’s first hijab-wearing MP when she was elected as MP for Poplar and Limehouse in the 2019 general election, writes, ‘Senators approved an amendment to the bill calling for “any dress or clothing, which would signify inferiority of women over men.” This clearly shows a lack of understanding for the matter as the first hijab-wearing Member of Parliament in the UK, I find this deeply offensive and divisive.’

She adds that the ban ‘is in the context of the escalating targeting and harassment of people of the Muslim background in France, scapegoating minorities for the perceived failings of the political and economic system.’
Begum cites the importance of adherence to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which ‘sets out that everyone has the right to freedom of thought conscience and religion and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private to manifest this religion or belief in teaching practise, worship and observance.’

‘I, therefore, believe that the ban would be an assault on the civil liberties of those affected as the wearing of the hijab, niqab or burka is deeply enshrined in the Muslim faith and culture globally.’

Begum said the situation in France is part of the wider ‘rise of Islamophobia across the world means that people of Muslim backgrounds face persecution and the denial of basic citizenship rights from the Rohingya refugees being forced to flee their homes to the human rights abuses in India and Kashmir and the Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region in Northwest China being unjustly arrested and imprisoned in what the Chinese government calls “political re-education camps.”’

(Photo credit: David Woolfall/UK Parliament)

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