Muslim students from Gauteng are set to march in protest to the French embassy in Pretoria this morning to submit a petition against a law enacted to ban Muslim females wearing the niqab in public.
The protest action comes at the heels of reports that countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands are now considering following the French government law enacted just over a month ago.
The Wits Muslim Students Association (MSA) began rallying the support of fellow students on Tuesday to protest against what they call a violation not only of the freedom to express their religious affiliation but also an infringement of women’s rights.
Chairman of Wits MSA, Abubakr Osma, says: “No one is oppressed by wearing it [the niqab] and no one is forced to wear it. We need to break the stereotype so that if a Muslim lady wants to wear it she should be allowed to do so.”
Witsies from various religious affiliations wrote comments reflecting their stance on the ban on a banner that will be taken to the protest march.
“We know the ban has already been introduced into French law and we can’t do anything about that but we don’t want it to spread to other European countries and we stand here in solidarity to show that it is a human rights violation and to discourage the countries considering implementing it,” says Fatima Mukkamad, 3rd year BA politics major.
The French government cites security reasons as part of their reasons for banning the niqab, a reason members of the MSA say is quite unfounded.
“I know that every woman who wears the veil feels the same as me in that if a security person has to ask us to remove our veil for security purposes we will never say ‘No!’. We would remove our veil and show our face,” Mukkamad says.
Students taking part in the march are from Wits, the University of Johannesburg and the University of Pretoria, forming an umbrella body – the Muslim Students Association Gauteng.