New Orleans For months ACORN’s affiliate in France, the Alliance Citoyenne, has been campaigning first in Grenoble and then in Lyon and other cities around the ban on the Muslim women from public spaces if they were wearing a hijab or other face, head or body-covering garments. Direct actions where our members entered public swimming pools wearing burkinis, as they are known, attracted huge attention and international news.
Within the organization, the actions were divisive. The board in Grenoble debated extensively whether to support the Muslim women among their membership that had brought the issue forward and asked for support. Finally, the majority ruled to undertake the campaign. Actively pursing the issue has meant a loss of 8% in our Grenoble membership, but the leadership and organization expresses no regret.
The ban is deeper than swimming, regardless of the record heat waves this summer in France. In many pools young children could not enter without a parent, and if the woman was wearing covering, they were also banned. And, that’s not the half of it. They are also barred from public employment and other services of the state based on this mandatory acculturation and mono-cultural French obsession.
France is not alone. Austria and the Netherlands passed similar rules, although last reports indicated that the Amsterdam police were not enforcing the public spaces ban. Talking to our organizer from Montreal ACORN, I was disappointed to hear that Law 21 passed in July, contrary to what I had thought earlier, and is in full force with similar restrictions in Quebec, including restricting public sector employment for veiled Muslim women. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the…
“…controversial bill that bans many public employees in the province from wearing religious symbols at work. Teachers, judges and police officers, among other civil servants, can no longer wear Muslim headscarves (hijabs), Jewish skullcaps, Sikh turbans and other symbols of their faith in the workplace. Even more alarming, the law also prohibits anyone wearing face coverings — Muslim women wearing niqabs (face veils) are the primary target — from receiving government services that include healthcare and using public transit.”
Unbelievable! Of course, human rights, the United Nations, the ACLU, and other groups are responding, but in the Age of Trump, all of this is going down a very bad road.
All of which makes a recent move, reported by the New York Times, by the NBA world champion Raptors in Toronto, Ontario, Quebec’s neighboring province, even more remarkable. Working with the Hijabi Ballers, a local organization that promotes Muslim women in sports in the city, the Raptors partnered with Nike to produce a Raptors branded hijab, claiming to be the first NBA team to be so inclusive. Of course, 400,000 Muslims live in the greater Toronto area, but civil rights groups including the Council on American-Islamic Relations have trumpeted the move.
ACORN leaders and members are still scratching their heads in trying to understand what is so frightening about Muslim women in so many countries, but, regardless, we know where we stand. With our members. All of them!