In a recent interview with journalists Edwy Plenel of the investigative website Mediapart and Jean-Jacques Bourdin of RMC radio, President Macron said: “I am not especially happy that some [Muslim] women choose to wear the headscarf when out in public, but it must be tolerated.”
“I respect veiled women, but I want to make sure that they are wearing veils and headscarves out of personal choice,” he said, adding that there was no “unequivocal” answer to the Islamic headscarf and veil debate.
Macron added women who wear the veil made people feel uncomfortable because the conservative Muslim headwear “does not conform to the civilities of French society.”
“We are committed to equality between men and women. But we must do more to explain this need for gender equality and convince people of its importance…I just want to make sure that no woman is forced to wear a veil or headscarf. It’s a battle for emancipation.”
According to Didier Leschi, former head of the Office of Religion at the Ministry of the Interior and author of Trouble(s) of French Islam, Emmanuel Macron “leaves the purely legal dimension to take into account the veil’s ideological aspects.” Adding, “he is clever to insist that he, personally, has nothing against veiled women while also expressing opposition to the principle.”
In response to Macron’s comments, Secretary of State for Parliamentary Relations Christophe Castaner noted: “Only a short time ago, in France, when even our mothers wore the Catholic veil, we did not ask the same questions.”
Interestingly, there were more responses to Castaner’s comments than to Macron’s.
Florian Philippot tweeted: “We think we’ve hit rock bottom, but each time we dig a bit deeper…”
Roger Kartouchi, former French ambassador to the OECD, tweeted: “Castaner compares the Islamic veil to the veil worn by all Catholic women ‘not long ago’…devil! (Dare I say ..) .. I had not noticed all these ladies in mantillas in our streets .. Either Castaner is in the wrong time period … or is it the wrong country?”