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The attack on the Council of Europe’s Hijab campaign is an attack on human rights

A recent online campaign promoted and led by the Council of Europe’s Anti-Discrimination department, following a workshop in cooperation with FEMYSO, has been attacked by hypocritical French public and political figures who continue to exercise their double standards when it comes to the topic of human rights by promoting liberty only for some and especially not Muslim communities.  

The campaign for the celebration of diversity, including the headscarf, follows on from our collaboration with the Council of Europe’s Anti-Discrimination Department. This specific partnership was in the form of two online workshops aimed at creating human rights-based narratives to counter anti-Muslim hate speech, taking place from the 27-28 September, in a framework of a deep history and continuous forms of cooperation with other parts of the Council of Europe, such as the European Youth Centres and through our representation at the Council of Europe’s Advisory Council on Youth.

As experts on this we facilitated three groups to guide the participants through a process that aimed to analyse hate speech, develop our own human rights narrative as a response. The participants, who belonged to diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, proactively debated the challenges posed by Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate speech, crafting campaigns aimed at raising awareness on the aforementioned issues. The visual campaign showcasing diversity and portraying young Muslim women wearing the hijab, was a result of this workshop.  

As FEMYSO we are extremely sad to see efforts by Muslim youth once again attacked and undermined by individuals and governments alike. We are deeply concerned and saddened that our collaboration on building human-rights based narratives to tackle anti-Muslim hate speech was attacked. This is yet another example of how young progressive voices are sidelined and Muslim women’s rights are non-existent to those who abuse notions such as liberty, secularism, equality and freedom. 

These attacks on this vital campaign take place in a wider environment of a shrinking of civic space, where government actors routinely censor and limit the freedom of speech when not fitting their political agenda. Such backlash and attacks supported by unfounded arguments, ostracise the work that we do as a civil society and hinders our attempt to represent the voices of those whose voice is not always heard.  

FEMYSO President Hande Taner said “In the face of such heavy racist and anti-Muslim attacks, institutions should stand firm in their messaging in support of human rights, condemning the violation of the freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We firmly believe that everyone has the right and freedom to wear (and not to wear) what they want. Those two are not extremes and do not exclude each other, rather they go together. This is a basic fundamental right.” 

At FEMYSO we will continue to participate proactively in the public debate by protecting human and fundamental rights, by organising trainings and campaigns, and by standing in solidarity with our civil society partners against all forms of oppression. 


  1. FEMYSO (est. 1996) is a network organisation for 33 Muslim youth and student organisations across 20 European countries, and is the leading voice for European Muslim youth, developing and empowering them, and working to build a more diverse, cohesive and vibrant Europe.    
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