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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More