This Muslim French Woman Wanted To Serve Her Country. Here's Why She Never Got The Chance.

Two sisters went to sign up for the military, but one had to pause.

After the terrorist attack in Nice, France, the French interior minister called on all "willing French Patriots" to enlist in the reserve military forces. Some, though, weren't able to.

Majda and Amina Belaroui, two Muslim sisters living in France, told NPR that they did their best to respond to the minister's call in an effort to demonstrate their loyalty to their country. But when Majda got to the recruitment center, she faced a decision: the receptionist told her to remove her hijab. Majda refused, and left the recruitment center without removing the religious veil.

Neither the receptionist nor Madja are at fault; one was simply following French law, which for more than a decade has prohibited French citizens from displaying religious symbols in public buildings, and the other was trying to adhere to her religious beliefs. 

Majda's sister Amina opted to remove the scarf, despite not wanting to, because she was that committed to serving her country.

"Maybe it will encourage other girls to do something they didn't think they could do before," she told NPR. "Maybe it will change things."

There's no doubt the law has affected more than just Madja and Amina. There are more than 5 million Muslims in France, the most of any country in Europe, and it's likely that thousands have faced a similar decision.

French Muslims are an integral part of French society, and many of them were celebrating Bastille Day during the Nice attack. One community group estimated that a third of the 84 victims of that attack were Muslim. 

"If I weren't Muslim, I think I would be so afraid of these people," Majda told NPR, speaking about Muslims. "For me, it's discouraging. We want to show that we are against this violence... We are demotivated."

After an attack on a Catholic priest this week, French President François Hollande called for a meeting between religious leaders across France. The hope was that the meeting would ease the bubbling religious tensions across the country. During the memorial ceremony for Nice victims, some local citizens were seen arguing with French Muslims.

French Prime Minster Manuel Valls previously noted that the goal of the attacks was precisely that: to "set the French people against each other, attack religion in order to start a war of religions."

Hopefully, Hollande's plans will lead to more religious unity and increased tolerance between individuals so that self-described patriots like the Belarouis may serve their country.


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