Pro-hijab ad promoting diversity pulled after outcry in France

The Council of Europe, a top human rights organisation withdrew images that promoted diversity among women and anti-muslim discrimination after facing backlash from France.

The council deleted images from its social media campaign that ‘celebrated diversity’ after it faced backlash from prominent French politicians who protested that it promoted the wearing of the Hijab against the values of France. The campaign was run with the statement ‘beauty is in diversity, as freedom is in Hijab’, which showed women wearing headscarves.

French politicians argued that the hijab did not represent freedom, whereas several Muslim women who choose to wear headscarves said that the reactions show the lack of respect towards the rights of Muslim women to choose what they adorn.

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France’s youth minister, Sarah El Ha├»ry, in an interview with French TV said that she was shocked by one poster, which showed a split image of one woman wearing a hijab, and one not. She suggested that the poster encouraged women to wear headscarves and clashed with the ‘secular values’ of France, which had disapproved of the campaign.

The European Council withdrew its tweets and on Wednesday clarified their act to the BBC, saying that there was a need for ‘better presentation’ for the campaign.

The council, partly funded by the European Union, is one of the oldest political organisations that aims to uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

A spokesperson of the organisation also informed that the tweets were a part of an anti-hate speech campaign led by the inclusion and anti-discrimination department of the Council of Europe. They were reportedly based on two workshops conducted in collaboration with a forum of Muslim youth organizations across Europe, in the month of September.

The campaign reflected individual views and statements of the people involved in the workshops and did not reflect the views of the Council of Europe, said the spokesperson.

The president of the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations (FEMYSO), Hande Taner, defended the campaign on Wednesday in an interview with the BBC. “The campaign itself is still on but as for why the tweet was deleted, I can’t speak on behalf of the Council of Europe,” she said. Taner also said that it was “really sad that the efforts of minority youth are being attacked and undermined by politicians.”

Taner also criticized the ‘french values’ saying that “there is a double standard where this freedom is not protected at the same level” for specific groups, such as Muslim women.

Eric Zemour, a possible French presidential candidate, who has been in the limelight for his far-right views and anti-Muslim statements, accused the campaign of promoting “the veiling of Europeans”.

National Rally candidate Marine Le Pen tweeted: “It’s when women take their veil off that they become free, not the other way around.” Taner responded to this saying, “If there’s a claim of freedom, this freedom should be universal. This should include the freedom to choose what to wear, but also the freedom to choose what not to wear.”

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