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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs