News / Europe

France Debates Public Ban on Full Islamic Veil

A woman dressed in a niqab, speaks with reporters during a press conference in Montreuil, east of Paris, 18 May 2010
A woman dressed in a niqab, speaks with reporters during a press conference in Montreuil, east of Paris, 18 May 2010
Elaine Cobbe

French parliamentarians on Tuesday began debating a proposed law that would ban women from wearing the full Islamic veil in public places.  

It is estimated that there are between 400 and 1,000 women in France who wear the niqab or burqa, which covers the face, leaving only the eyes exposed.  But the proposal to ban the burqa is being debated across France.

The burqa is a loose fitting garment worn over a woman's clothes that covers her entire body, leaving only her hands and eyes exposed.  The niqab is a face veil, usually worn with a burqa.   

The French National Assembly is expected to spend the next two or three days debating the proposed legislation, which would ban full veil in public places.

At stake, say those behind the proposed legislation, is France's commitment to a secular society.  And its commitment to equal rights for women.

Supporting the bill is the ruling Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP, several women's rights groups, and a number of Muslim clerics who say they are concerned by the growing number of fundamentalists in the French Islamic community.

Jean-Francois Copé, president of the parliamentary group of the UMP, is behind the bill.  He says the full veil is an attack on the values of the French republic.

"I insist on the fact that there is no stigmatisation of the Muslim community," said Jean-Francois Copé. "As you know, the burqa is not at all a religious prescription.  I would say it's extremists who are opposing [the values] of the Republic.  And the best answer we have is to say that in France in public, you have to make your face visible.  It's a way to respect each other and also a way to preserve security."

There are at least five million Muslims in France - the largest Muslim population in Europe.  Six years ago, France banned the Islamic headscarf, as well as other religious symbols, from public schools and government buildings.

The proposed ban would fine women about $190 for wearing a niqab in public.  Violators would also have to take a French citizenship course.

The penalty would be tougher for anyone found to have forced a woman to wear a full veil - a one year jail sentence and a $38,000 fine.

Some people who support the bill say many women wear the veil because they're forced to, not because they want to.

Sihem Habchi is president of the feminist organization Ni Putes Ni Soumises, or  "Neither Whores nor Submissive," which supports the bill.

Habchi says this has nothing to do with Islam.  She calls it an archaic, retrograde practice with regard to women.  She says the issue has been used by what she termed "the Extreme Right" to create confusion.

But not everyone agrees that France or women are at risk.  Several human rights groups are concerned that the law will affect Muslim women's right to dress as they wish.

A week ago, the European Parliament said it opposed laws prohibiting certain types of dress.  Belgium is considering similar legislation to ban the burqa in public.

Analysts say the French bill is expected to pass.  But the opposition Socialist Party has indicated it will abstain during the vote in the National Assembly, which is expected on July 13.   

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid