Women asked to remove headscarves at some French airports

Some French airports have begun to ask headscarf-wearing women to take off their scarves for security reasons, which has spurred criticism from Muslims in the country, who find the practice a discriminatory one.

The Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) has announced that Nantes Atlantique Airport has made it obligatory for headscarf-wearing women to take off their scarves and place them in the X-ray machine along with their other belongings.

The practice was put into effect two weeks ago by the SGA, the company responsible for Nantes Atlantique Airport’s security. Women affected by the new rules requested that they be allowed to take off their headscarves in a special room staffed only by women, but the request was denied. The women were told that they must place their headscarves on the conveyor going through the X-ray machine if they wanted to avoid missing their plane.

The SGA defended their actions, claiming that dangerous materials could be hidden under the headscarves, which has triggered outrage in France’s Muslim community.

According to EU airport security regulations, security staff do not have the authority to ask women to take their headscarves off.

Narin Yüksel, one of the women who were asked to remove their headscarves at Nantes Atlantique Airport, said it was the first time she faced such discrimination in the 30 years she’s lived in the country. “I am 65. What could there be under the headscarf of a 65-year-old woman? They told me that I would not be able to board my plane if I don’t take off my headscarf,” she told Today’s Zaman.

Yüksel’s daughter Hatice said security officials at the airport did not even allow her mother to drop her headscarf to her shoulder, saying that the headscarf should be placed in the X-ray machine. “When we asked them to do the security check in a special room, they threatened to call the police if my mom didn’t take off her headscarf,” she said.

The CCIF said the new rule has been implemented not only at Nantes Atlantique Airport but also at Merignac Airport in Bordeaux after they received complaints from people using that airport.

The French Muslim Council (CFCM), which is tied to the French Interior Ministry, condemned the new security procedure and called on Interior Minister Manuel Valls to initiate an investigation into the case.

Union Des Associations Turques du Grand Ouest (UNATGO) President İsa Sevencan told Today’s Zaman that they contacted Nantes Governor Christian de Lavernée and that he promised to put an end to the discriminatory practice. “We will not allow such actions, which threatens our ability to coexist, to happen again,” Sevencan said.

Last week, a Turkish citizen, Kübra Kağıtçı, was not allowed into a bank in Belfort due to her headscarf. The number of Islamophobic attacks on headscarf-wearing women has been increasing in France in recent years. In 2011, 94 percent of Islamaphobic attacks in the country targeted women wearing headscarves.

The wearing of headscarves was banned at all French primary and high schools in 2004, but headscarves are still allowed at universities.

Today’s Zaman, 28 June 2012