“Muslim women should be allowed to wear what they want.”

Emmanuel Macron, president of France, has ruled out extending his country’s ban on Muslim dress.

In an interview on French TV, Macron said that while he was personally not in favour of the hijab, religious tolerance was key.

“I am not especially happy that some women choose to wear the headscarf when out in public, but it must be tolerated,” he was quoted as saying by The Express.

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“I respect veiled women, but I want to make sure that they are wearing veils and headscarves out of personal choice,” Macron continued.

France was the first European country to ban the burqa – a clampdown on students in state-run schools began in 2004, and the law came into full effect in April 2011. Anyone caught wearing the burqa or niqab is fined €150 (Dhs749).

niqab burqa

Macron said his stance was about gender equality.

“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. However, banning the Muslim headscarf in public places would be counter-productive,” The Express quotes his interview.

“The French state is secular but French society is not, and Muslim women should be allowed to wear what they want.”

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Belgium, which introduced a similar ban shortly after France, goes even further – anyone caught wearing the veil risks being jailed for up to seven days and fined €1,378 (Dhs5,685).

In 2017, the European Union’s top court ruled that employers are allowed to ban the “visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign,” including the hijab.

Earlier this April, Macron hosted Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for a private dinner at the Louvre in Paris.

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Images: Getty