Islamophobia is starker in France today, but being Muslim has never been easy here. I’ve worn the hijab headscarf for about 20 years. Even back in 1994 I was excluded from school for wearing it. I had to study at home while I appealed against the decision.
I was eventually allowed to return to school a month before the end of the year. But there were 19 sisters sent home from my school—and many of them never came back.
Ten years later what were previously guidelines banning the hijab in schools became law. Some sisters left school in response. Others removed their hijabs—but with a bitter feeling of injustice in their hearts.
I don’t think the whole French population is Islamophobic, but all the political parties are. Muslims count for nothing as far as they are concerned. Even on the left, the people who recognise Islamophobia are a tiny minority.
Things have got worse since the Mohammed Merah shootings in Toulouse. Now it feels like anyone who talks about war and imperialism is under suspicion.
Muslims are treated like the enemy within. The authorities do what they want to us and justify it by saying it’s all about security.
Then there’s unemployment. For a sister in a hijab or a brother who lets his beard show it’s almost impossible to find work.
The future looks very bleak. But we do what we can. I belong to a group called Mamans Toutes Egales—“all mums are equal”. We got hundreds of people together for a mass meeting in February.
The rise of the Front National didn’t happen in a vacuum and it didn’t happen overnight. It’s been going on for decades. And as long as we refuse to confront Islamophobia, the FN’s growth will continue.