Journalist challenges French rule banning hijab in press card photos

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A Paris-based Moroccan journalist who wears the hijab said on Friday she was appealing against a rule that bans women from covering their head in photos on the French press ID card.

Manal Fkihi said her application for a press card had been turned down, and the lack of an official ID was making it difficult for her to report on events including protests and to secure freelance contracts.

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“It is important to accept us as we are,” the 25-year-old told Reuters. The appeal “is a first step to combat the marginalization of veiled women in the profession.”

Fkihi, who moved to France for her studies five years ago, said her application was turned down by the CCIJP press card commission under a rule that says ID photos must conform to the same standard as passports.

In France, it is forbidden to wear a head covering in a passport photo, unlike countries such as Britain where they are permitted for religious reasons.

The CCIJP did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Fkihi will appeal to the CCIJP, arguing that its rule is discriminatory and that a press card is a professional card, not a form of ID, her lawyer Slim Ben Achour said. If that fails, she will go to the administrative court, he added.

The passport law bans head coverings without spelling out a reason.

France - home to one of Europe’s largest Muslim minorities - has for years enforced laws meant to protect the principle of secularism known as “laicité” which President Emmanuel Macron has warned is under threat from “Islamist separatism.”

Some Muslim associations and human rights groups say those laws have targeted Muslims and left them vulnerable to abuse.

State employees and school pupils are banned from wearing religious symbols and clothing in France under national laws meant to protect the separation of religion and state.

There is no national legislation laying out similar bans for non-state workers but a number of professions have created their own rules.

In 2023, the National Bar Association banned lawyers from wearing the hijab with the lawyer’s gown in court. Employees for public service media groups Radio France and France Media Monde cannot wear religious signs, including the headscarf, under their internal regulations.

Fkihi says that she was once offered a television journalism job, on the condition that she did not wear her headscarf.

“What is crazy is that it was for an Arabic-speaking post. They want our skills but without our identities,” she said, declining to name the media organization.

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