Can a woman wearing an Islamic veil lead a public institution created to guarantee gender equality? The question has monopolized the political debate in Belgium since the secretary of state for equality and diversity, the ecologist Sarah Schlitz, he appointed Ihsane Haouach to take up the post of government commissioner at the Institute for Equality between Women and Men. When the photo of the new commissioner began to circulate on TV and in the newspapers, a characteristic emerged that took over all her merits and her preparation: Haouach wears the hijab, the Islamic veil that covers hair and ears leaving the face uncovered.
The controversy over the veil
“He has a concrete resume”, the Belgian Prime Minister said in Parliament, Alexander De Croo, in response to criticism from the right and the liberals, the same political family to which the premier belongs. Indeed, he was among the first to attack Haouach’s appointment Georges Louis Bouchez, president of the Mouvement réformateur, the French-speaking liberal party allied with the Open Vld, the formation of Flemish liberals to which De Croo belongs. The appointment of the woman who wears the veil “is totally contrary to the principle of neutrality of the state”, argued Bouchez, since “the freely worn veil does not pose any difficulty, but it should be remembered that in certain families or in certain countries it is one instrument of domination against women “.
“The government’s point of view – replied De Croo hard-nosed – is that this person has the skills and experience to perform this function”. In fact, if no party – not even the right-wing opposition – has targeted the curriculum of the new government commissioner, there will be some reason. A graduate of Solvay Business School, Haouach began her career in the energy sector. In addition to French and English, he speaks the Darija language, which is Moroccan Arabic. In 2013, she was one of the co-founders of the non-profit organization Tyn, Talented Youth Network, created to develop young talents in their diversity, working on self-confidence and civic involvement. In 2015, she launched Bruxelloise & Voilée (Brussels and the Veil) a movement that will have great success on social media, with the aim of fighting stereotypes against women who wear hijabs. In 2016, he helped to create the L’Épicerie educational center, in the heart of Molenbeek, the neighborhood infamous in the news all over the world as the place of origin of several Islamic terrorists. The difficult challenge of bringing culture and education to one of the most disadvantaged areas of the Belgian capital will now be followed by the first government office, which promises to be tougher than the previous ones.