Locals to protest French law banning symbols
By Jonathan Yazer
A group of concerned Muslim women at Western have been inspired
by international protests against controversial legislation
being proposed in France.
Razia Hamidi is one of the organizers of a rally to be held
in London this Saturday exactly one week after concurrent,
worldwide protests were staged in opposition to proposed French
legislation banning indiscreet religious symbols such as the
hijab, skullcaps and large crucifixes from being worn in public
“There can be no toleration, under the guise of religious
freedom, of people contesting the Republic’s laws and
principles,” said French President Jacques Chirac in
a speech made on Dec. 17, 2003.
“For us, this is a rule of law,” Chirac said. “No
French citizens must be able to suspect a public official,
because of his or her personal beliefs, of either according
them special treatment or discriminating against them.”
Local organizers are hoping the rally will raise local awareness. “A
lot of the people we’ve spoken to don’t know about
this, about how girls are being forced to choose between education
or abiding [by] their religion,” Hamidi said.
“It’s my hope that this will raise awareness about
the issue,” said Adrienne Kennedy, VP-campus issues for
the University Students’ Council. “It’s great
to see Western students getting involved.”
Hamidi said the rally is expected to draw at least 500 people
of various religious and political affiliations, and will feature
speakers and a petition opposing the law.
Sana Fakih, social commissioner for the Muslim Students’ Association,
explained the requirement to wear the hijab is found within
the text of the Qur’an. “This is not just a man-made
law. God told us to do this.”
Hamidi said the hijab is more than a religious symbol. “It
is an obligation sent down from God. It should be an individual’s
choice whether to follow the commandments of God.
“If it can work here, it can work in France,” she
said, adding Canada is a prime example of a country that has
successfully mixed religious tolerance and secular values.
In his speech, Chirac alluded to rising religious tensions
in France. “[Our objective] is to make the young people
involved understand what is at stake and protect them from
influences and passions which, far from liberating them or
allowing them to make free choices, constrain or threaten them.”
But Hamidi offered a different perspective. “Being secular
means being neutral, not taking sides.”
Fakih stressed the invitation to the rally is open to all
concerned members of the London community. “Everyone
The rally will be held this Saturday at 1 p.m. in Victoria
Park, at the corner of Central and Richmond Sts.