Lyon: deputy mayor conducting marriage ceremony forces bride to remove headscarf

French news sources (see herehere and here) have reported on the case of a Muslim couple, Samira and Mohamed ****, who went to the town hall in the 9th district of Lyon on 4 June to get married.

The Coalition Against Racism and Islamophobia (CRI) reported that Samira was immediately challenged by the deputy mayor, Fatiha ben Ahmed of the Europe Écologie – Les Verts party, who was responsible for conducting the marriage ceremony. Ben Ahmed demanded that Samira should remove her headscarf and threatened the couple that she would not proceed with the ceremony unless the bride did as she was told. Under pressure from the deputy mayor and lacking knowledge of the regulations, Samira complied and removed her hijab.

It has been pointed out that there is in fact no legislation that allows a mayor or his deputy to refuse to marry a couple on the grounds that the bride wears a headscarf. Fatiha ben Ahmed’s demand was particularly discriminatory, given that it is a French tradition that brides wear a tulle veil at marriage ceremonies.

The Coalition Against Racism and Islamophobia wrote to the mayor Alain Giordano protesting about the couple’s disgraceful treatment. Giordano replied that he had summoned ben Ahmed to his office to explain her behaviour and that the case would be discussed at a council meeting. The mayor gave his assurance that there would be no repetition of the incident.