News / Europe

France Moves One Step Closer to Criminalizing Full Muslim Veil

Henry Ridgwell

French lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to ban the public wearing of Muslim veils that cover the face.  The lower house of parliament passed the bill last week by an overwhelming 335 votes for, to one against.

It still must be ratified by France's senate and faces other legal hurdles. Its supporters say the law upholds the secular nature of French society. But critics of the ban argue it could violate the French constitution and have vowed to take it to the European Court of Human Rights.

In a boutique in downtown Paris, French university student Mariam Belkhir browses through the latest fashions.  Belhir, who enjoys the lifestyle of western Europe, is Muslim, but does not wear a veil.  Nevertheless, she said no one should tell her or anyone else what they can or cannot wear.

"I think that each woman has the right to express her faith in her own way. I think there are lots of other more important problems the government needs to address in France."

In the southern city of Avignon, Kenza Drider has a stricter interpretation of Islam.  She wears the face-covering vail, or niqab, out of choice.  If the new law is ratified, she will face a $200 fine if she ventures out in public wearing it.

"I will never change my life for anything in this world.  My niqab is my niqab, I will keep it," vowed Drider.

Official figures suggest fewer than 2,000 women in France wear the full Islamic veil.  But the government claims it is contrary to the values of the French republic.  And polls show the majority of French people support the ban.

Jacques Myard of the ruling UMP party, which backs the ban, says it does not unfairly target Muslims, but reinforces secularism established with the French revolution.

"This is something which is absolutely contrary to our history, to our traditions and to our principles," said Myard. "The principle of dignity for a person, and the principle of equality of the sexes.  And of course it is also a question of security because you do not know who is behind this veil."

The day after the bill was passed was Bastille Day, France's national holiday, celebrating the 1789 revolution and French unity.

In a courtyard in the Paris suburb of St. Denis, M'Hammed Henniche and his colleagues from the Union of Muslim Associations debate the new law as they sip their mint tea.  They said far from unifying France, the law is in danger of alienating the country's five-million Muslims.

"Islam is part of French culture, part of French society, but a certain section of the political class is denying this fact," Henniche said. "They want to create a clash within French society and to do that, they are waving this red flag of the Islamic veil."

Since riots in 2005, the government has had an uneasy relationship with the largely Muslim residents of Paris's northeastern suburbs.

The demonstrators claimed they were being unfairly treated by the police.  And if the bill to ban face-covering veil becomes the law in France, it is likely to antagonize the millions of Muslims living in the Paris suburbs and further afield.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
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 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 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 US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
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.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs