“Freedom in the hijab”: a European campaign for diversity withdrawn after a heated controversy

It was to be a campaign for “diversity”. It was that of discord. A communication campaign celebrating diversity and “freedom in the hijab”, launched last Thursday by the Council of Europe, has sparked heated controversy in France. Faced with the outcry, the organization, watchman of human rights on the continent, withdrew it from social networks on Tuesday, November 2.

This campaign, launched by the Council’s Program for Inclusion and the Fight Against Discrimination and co-financed by the European Union, featured portraits of several young women, veiled in only one half of the image. A message in English accompanied the posters: “Beauty is in diversity as freedom is in hijab” (“beauty is in diversity as freedom is in the hijab”). Or: “Celebrate diversity and respect the hijab”. At first relatively unnoticed, it ended up triggering a lively controversy, from the far right to the government through the PS.

“This European communication in favor of the Islamist veil is scandalous and indecent while millions of women fight courageously against this enslavement”, launched Marine Le Pen, candidate of the National Assembly for the presidential election.

His probable competitor, the essayist Eric Zemmour, did not fail to denounce an “advertising jihad”. “Islam is the enemy of freedom. This campaign is the enemy of truth, ”tweeted the polemicist, not yet an official candidate for 2022.

On the right, the president of the Ile-de-France region and candidate for the LR nomination for the presidential election, Valérie Pécresse, also expressed her “amazement”, believing that the veil was “not a symbol of freedom, but of submission ”. Just like the deputy for the Alpes-Maritimes, Éric Ciotti, also in the race for the LR nomination. He denounced a “promotion of the Islamic veil” and a “negation of our Judeo-Christian roots, of our civilization, of the spirit of the Enlightenment”. The boss of LR senators, Bruno Retailleau, for his part considered that the Council of Europe “now openly promotes submission to Islamist mores”.

The campaign also caused a reaction on the left. The former Minister of Women’s Rights and support for presidential candidate Arnaud Montebourg, Socialist Senator Laurence Rossignol, wrote that “to say that freedom is in the hijab” was to “promote it”. On CNews, the spokesperson for the Socialist Party, Dieynaba Diop, judged this campaign counterproductive: “We cannot promote living together by highlighting a religious practice, it is not possible and it doesn’t work. ‘is not the role of the Council of Europe ”. The former PS Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, found it “shocking, bewildering and dangerous”.

Within the government, the Secretary of State in charge of Youth, Sarah El Haïry, declared on LCI that France had “expressed its extremely strong disapproval, hence the withdrawal of this campaign as soon as possible. [mardi] ».

France intervened via “our ambassadors”, explained the minister in particular. “These tweets have been withdrawn and we are going to think about a better presentation of this project,” the Council of Europe confirmed in a statement.

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