Participants in an anti-Islamophobia event at the European Parliament have slammed France over its recent ban on Islamic dress in schools.
The event was hosted by the Parliament at the request of the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisation (Femyso), which the French Government claims has links to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organisation banned in numerous Middle Eastern countries.
Speaking at the event, Brussels-based journalist Shada Islam called on Muslim students to “use all democratic and legal means” to “be heard and defend their cause”.
She said that Muslims struggle against an image of Islam in France that was “very strongly marked by a colonialist and white supremacist mentality”.
The journalist is a member of the so-called Brussels so White movement that claims there are too few minorities in the European institutions.
She was responding to the concerns of one French Muslim student over the recent ban of the abaya, a form of traditional Muslim dress.
Hania Chalal, a former president of the Muslim Students of France Organisation, said the ban was a violation of the rights of Muslim women.
Hania Chalal: The discrimination against Muslim women in France is beyond the abaya ban. It is one of the several attempts to compromise the rights of Muslim women. But I am hopeful that in similar situations Muslim women will rise and they will not stand down.
— FEMYSO (@FEMYSO) September 21, 2023
“We need to show that Europe cannot do without us,” Chalal added.
Present at the event was Eve Geddie, the director of Amnesty International, who called the abaya ban government “targeting of muslims”.
Amnesty International has also recently called on the international community to pressure the Islamic Republic of Iran to stop its mandatory veiling of women.
France accuses Femyso of undermining its secular and universalist policies.
Such tension between France and European institutions is not new. In November 2021, a hijab-promotion campaign backed by the Council of Europe and the European Union prompted France to reprimand Brussels over its partnerships with Muslim associations allegedly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Marlène Schiappa, a former French minister delegate, labelled Femyso as a “front for Islamism” and criticised the organisation for what she said was its aggressive stance towards France, not only the government but also French culture in general.
She added that she was bewildered at there still being so many “organisations that we want to see dissolved in France, and that are [already] dissolved”, before calling on Europe to take more responsibility regarding the situation.
Gérald Darmanin, France’s Minister of the Interior, also wrote to the EC, denouncing Femyso’s activities, noting that the association has received €210,000 in funding from the European Union since 2007.
Femyso is closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, a connection unveiled by an investigation by the French Marianne magazine. The group serves as a transnational offshoot of the Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF), originally founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s.
Those at the Femyso event repeatedly referred to the revelations of ties with Islamist organisations as “state sponsored smear campaigns”.
France’s resolute stance and repeated warnings to European institutions about Femyso’s activities appear to have yielded few concrete results so far.