Tackling hate speech and ending discrimination remains an important objective, said Marija Pejcinovic Buric, secretary general of the Council of Europe.
Buric said she has “no intention” of ending the council’s campaign to promote women’s diversity and their right to wear headscarves or hijabs, which came under immediate attack from France after its launch last month.
Buric’s remarks came in her reply to a letter by Turkey’s Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop, in which he denounced the backlash against the anti-Muslim discrimination project.
The council was forced to take down images of women in headscarves that were shared on the Twitter account of its Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Division with the slogans “Freedom is in the headscarf,” “Bring joy amp; accept hijabs,” and “Beauty is in diversity as freedom is in the hijab.”
In his letter, Sentop said the project was a “very valuable initiative” that could prove vital in “combating discrimination against women wearing religious headdress.”
In recent years, he pointed out, Muslim women wearing headscarves, particularly in Europe, have been “subjected to discrimination and unjustified practices which in some instances amount to hate crimes by either public administrations or private persons and institutions, triggered by Islamophobia and xenophobia.”
He said it was unfortunate to see the campaign being “terminated due to the political considerations expressed by some politicians in France, the host State for the Council of Europe.”
“In this context, it is shocking that this meaningful campaign for combating the discrimination faced by women wearing religious headdress and tended to spread throughout Europe, was terminated by the Council of Europe by taking into account the political considerations of a member State,” Sentop wrote.
He said pulling the campaign “means that excluding female members of the Muslim minority living in Europe from social life and exposing them to discrimination due to their adherence to the requirements of their religion have been approved by the Council of Europe.”
“The fact that the Council of Europe places the political concerns of politicians of the Member States above its own fundamental values has taken its place as a shameful event in the history of the institution, which has achieved great success in the protection of human rights in its 70-year history,” read the letter.
“Furthermore, the fact that the concerns forming the basis of this decision have stemmed from public officials and politicians in France raises some serious questions about whether the aforementioned state is a suitable host in order for the Council of Europe to function independently, impartially and professionally.”
*Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev