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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs