The violent assault against a pregnant Muslim woman in southern France rightly made headlines globally. But below that worrying headline is other stories of recent violence against visibly Muslim women in the country.
According to the Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF) on March 26, a Muslim woman had her headscarf torn off outside a school in Aulnay-Sous-Bois (in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris). The incident took place after school, the victim was attacked by a parent of another student who also tore at the Muslim woman’s hair after violently removing her headscarf.
Perhaps more worrying, is the alleged indifference of police. Police apparently refused to take the victim’s complaint seriously because the nature of the assault did not ‘involve a punch’. The CCIF are working closely with the victim to ensure the police log her complaint.
At the turn of last month, in Saint-Etienne, a Muslim woman, who wears the jilbab was harassed while carrying her 11-month-old daughter in her arms. The female perpetrator expressed clear Islamophobic sentiments when she told her to ‘mind your outfit’ and ‘you do not have to wear that here’. The victim retorted that she had ‘no right to talk to her like this’ and she is allowed to wear the jilbab because it is not a face veil.
The perpetrator then violently yanked the arm of her 11-month-old daughter. When the victim contacted the police the initial call was dropped. In the meantime, the victim attempted to learn the perpetrator’s name (who refused to disclose). A second attempt to inform the police was met with an alleged indifference, who then asked her to lodge a simple complaint. Thankfully, during this upsetting incident, the victim photographed the perpetrator’s number plate.
When the victim eventually found herself at a police station, staff assured her that the incident was ‘nothing serious’ and that a complaint suffices. Concerned for her baby daughter and the trauma she suffered, she took her to a doctor so she can file complaint with a medical certificate to strengthen the case. The police did begin an investigation but the perpetrator gave a conflicting statement.
The visibility of all three Muslim women made them targets for verbal abuse and violence. In 2013, a pregnant Muslim was attacked in Paris for similar reasons. She later suffered a miscarriage (but there is no clear evidence that the loss was attributed to the attack).
If the visibility of Muslim women in France made them a target for abuse it also made access to employment harder. In 2010, France banned full-face veils in public. In 2004, school staff were banned from wearing religiously-inspired insignia or garments. Three years later and the rules extended to those delivering a public service. But there are presently no rules for private firms.
A consequence of these legislative measures pushed many visible female Muslims into self-employment.
All three incidents reflect a rising Islamophobic sentiment in France in the wake of the Paris atrocities. Two weeks after these acts of terrorism, 128 Islamophobic incidents were recorded by the National Observatory Against Islamophobia (but that figure excludes Paris and its suburbs). In 2014, the organisation recorded 133 such incidents. Like with the UK, violence against Muslim women is a worrying and common thread alongside the under reporting of Islamophobic incidents.