The French National Assembly has voted 335 to 1, with 241 members
abstaining, to publicly ban the face veil worn by many Muslim women in
the country. The ban will now go to the upper chamber of parliament,
where it is expected to pass by a similar margin, and will then be
signed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who supports it. The face veil,
called the hijab or niqab depending on its form, is not to be confused
with the burqa, which is a full body covering. Writers across the world
are evaluating the French attempt to negotiate this complicated
intersection between freedom, religion, and national identity. Is this
the right step?
- Ban Is Popular Across Western Europe The BBC reports, "The ban
has strong public support but critics point out that only a tiny
minority of French Muslims wear the full veil. ... The vote is being
closely watched in other countries, the BBC's Christian Fraser reports
from the French capital Paris. Spain and Belgium are debating similar
legislation, and with such large-scale immigration in the past 20 or 30
years, identity has become a popular theme across Europe, our
- It's All About Nationalism The
Hewitt argues, "the main motive behind this vote was to reinforce
French identity. MPs believe that those who live in, or visit, France
should embrace French values. Time and again in parliament MPs argued
that hiding a woman's face violates the ideal of equality and encourages
segregation. The fear behind this is of separate, parallel communities.
There are only about 2,000 women in France who wear the burka or niqab.
Many are recent converts to Islam."
Law Will Face French, International Court Checks The L.A. Times' Alison
Culliford reports, "Because of questions over the ban's
constitutionality, the ruling Union for a Popular Movement party has
agreed to send the eventual final version of the legislation to the
Constitutional Council watchdog. A further challenge could occur from
the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Amnesty
International has said the law 'violates rights to freedom of expression
Religious Freedom Should Take Precedent Christian conservative
Dreher writes: "I like that the imam of the Grand Mosque of Paris
says that the burqa (niqab, etc.) has no place in Islam. ... But I also
agree with the imam that the French state is not justified in compelling
the relatively small number of Muslim women who wear the burqa to give
it up. What are they hurting? I think their freedom of religion is more
important, and it should be respected."
Dictating Clothing Is Wrong Freelance Canadian journalist Naheed
"Seriously, ask yourself this question: how would I feel if state
dictated what I could wear? That's right, Muslim women feel the same
way. Dictating to women what they can and can't wear is oppressive.
Regardless of who does it. Full stop."
Will Full Burqa Bans Follow? The L.A. Times' Alexandra
Sandels reports, "support for banning the burka is especially high
in France, where a whopping 82% are in favor of outlawing it in public
places such as schools, hospitals and government offices, while just 17%
are opposed to such measures. But the study also indicates that the
garment, which has been the subject of much heated debate and
controversy in Europe, is becoming increasingly unpopular in Germany,
Britain, and Spain, where 71%, 62% and 59%, respectively, of those
surveyed endorsed burka bans similar to the proposed French law in their
own countries. Americans, on the other hand, remain strongly opposed to
such a law. Only 28% of those surveyed in the U.S. were in support of a
burka ban while 65% disapproved."
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