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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora