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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers 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.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, even music are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. Faith Lapidus narrates a report from VOA’s June Soh.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, even music are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. Faith Lapidus narrates a report from VOA’s June Soh.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid