France Tires of Muslim Attack on Women’s Equality: Banning the Burqa
Not only is France talking about banning the burqa in public, talks revolve around charging men who “enforce” the burqa-wearing minor with criminal charges, all to protect women and children. Critics say that this will stigmatize Muslims, but it appears as if France’s patience with these arguments is wearing thin–most expect the law to be passed:
The legislation would forbid face-covering Muslim veils such as the niqab or burqa in all public places in France, even in the street. It calls for euro150 ($185) fines or citizenship classes for women who run afoul of the law, and in some cases both.
Part of the bill is aimed at husbands and fathers who impose such veils on female family members. Anyone convicted of forcing a woman to wear such a veil risks a year of prison and a euro30,000 fine — with both those penalties doubled if the victim is a minor.
France “does not accept attacks on human dignity,” Alliot-Marie said. “It does not tolerate the abuse of vulnerable people.”
France’s opposition Socialists agree with much of the draft law, although they say a ban shouldn’t be applicable everywhere — just in certain places, such as government buildings, hospitals and public transport.
“We’re not going into this debate with a head-on attack,” Jean-Marc Ayrault, who heads the Socialists in the French National Assembly, told Associated Press Television News.
The justice minister argued that the law must be applicable everywhere to be coherent — but she nonetheless presented a host of exceptions to the face-covering ban, such as masks worn for health reasons, for sports like fencing and at public fetes such as carnivals.
Authorities in several European countries have been debating similar bans. Belgium’s lower house has enacted a ban on the face-covering veil, though it must be ratified by the upper chamber.
Said Aalla, president of a mosque in the eastern city of Strasbourg, said he believes legislators have the right to pass laws on societal issues. But like many French Muslims, he is concerned about how police will enforce it.
“Is this a law that is going to be implemented in a serene way, so as not to stigmatize the Muslim population?” he asked.
Amnesty International has urged French lawmakers to reject the bill, and a French anti-racism group, MRAP, which opposes such dress, has said a law would be “useless and dangerous.” France’s highest administrativebody, the Council of State, warned in March that a total ban risks being found unconstitutional.
France banned common Muslim headscarves and other obvious religious symbols from classrooms in 2004.
While headscarves and religious symbols have been banned in the classroom for six years now, many are now opposed to banning scarves in public. Others feel that the only way to address the Muslim edict of covering women and therefore publicly branding them as inequal is to ban the covering of the face in public altogether.