The Federation of Muslim Youth and Student Organizations (FEMYSO) has issued a statement defending wearing of the hijab (headscarf) by French Muslim women within public institutions of French higher education. According to the FEMYSO statement:
As has become commonplace nowadays, the High-Commissioner for Integration (HCI) stigmatizes once again French Muslims. After the debate on religious symbols in companies, the HCI has started to plan a new law against religious symbols in French Universities.
The report handed to the Prime Minister by Alain Seski is astonishing, in how far the recommendations are disconnected from the reality. Indeed, it is under the pretext of defending secularism that the commission led by Alain Seski asked the State to legislate for a ban on religious symbols within public institutions of French higher education. After the law of 2004, it is regrettable to notice a new will to broaden the exclusion of French Muslims within the education field.
This report is questionable at various levels. First of all, the data put forward lacks credibility and is not based on any serious survey. As students’ organizations, we have been surprised by the conclusion of the report, on which none of us have been consulted. We noticed, with surprise, the gap between the situation described and the reality in French universities and higher education institutions.
For these reasons, it is false to say that special dispensations are claimed by Muslim students for the religious feasts. If a serious survey had been done, it would have shown that the vast majority of Muslim students do not take a day off during Muslim festivals and this in particular during the exam periods. It would have also shown that no exception has ever been granted concerning this matter by the university administrations toward Muslim students.
If, as underlined in the report, there is an increase in contentious issues concerning religious matters, it is because Muslim students are more likely to report discrimination which they suffer, especially because of discriminatory exclusions made when a teacher, overstepping his authority, seeks to apply the principles of religious neutrality according to his or her own personal views.
The latest report by the European Commission on racism stated that Muslim women were the most affected by discriminatory practices and religious hatred. The current events of the last few weeks in France unfortunately confirm this established fact. It is thus essential that French universities remain a place of cultural exchange open to everyone and respectful of the universal right for everybody to study.
For this reason, we ask the Ministry of Higher Education to fight against all forms of exclusion and discrimination in universities and higher education institutions. It is essential that public authorities respect individual liberty in higher education. It is necessary, now even more than ever, to create a dialogue as the solution for conflicts and not to give in to the stigmatisation of a particular religious community.
With the prospect of a tense new school year, we ask the government not to lose sight of the real challenge of the next years – that students are having to face increasingly difficult conditions – and demand strong solutions concerning these matters.
Our predecessor publication reported on the importance of the hijab to the European Muslim Brotherhood.
A NEFA Foundation report identifies FEMYSO as the youth/student arm of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), representing the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. Over the years, FEMYSO has developed a relationship with both the Council of Europe and the European Commission where it has been invited since 2003 to attend meetings of the Group of Policy Advisers (GOPA). One of the important leaders of FEMYSO over the years has been Ibrahim El-Zayat, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany. Michael Privot, a Belgian convert and former youth leader in FIOE who in 2008 had openly acknowledged being part of the Muslim Brotherhood, has written in his blog that he has “put an end to all my links and ties with the European Muslim Brotherhood.” The GMBDW reported today that the new FEMYSO leadership structure includes two relatives of important Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
(Disclosure: FIOE and Belgian Muslim Brotherhood reports authored by the GMBDW editor)