Tuesday, July 13, 2010

French MPs set to vote for ban on Islamic full veil

Pic. July 1, 2010 shows a veiled woman speaking with another woman while waiting at the courthouse in Nanterre, Paris western suburb.

Wouldn't do to have a pink or green bag to go with that outfit!!

A French ban on the public wearing of the Islamic full veil is expected to have an easy passage in parliament's lower house when it votes shortly.

The bill has broad cross-party support in the National Assembly and opinion polls suggest overwhelming public support.

To become law, it must be ratified by the Senate in September.

Critics point out that only a tiny minority of French Muslims wear the full veil.

Democracy thrives when it is open-faced
Michele Alliot-Marie
French justice minister

President Nicolas Sarkozy supports the bill as part of a wider debate on national identity but critics say the government is pandering to far-right voters.

The opposition Socialists who originally wanted the ban limited only to public buildings have since bowed to pressure from feminist supporters and will now abstain from voting, which should ensure it passes.

The vote will be closely watched in other countries, the BBC's Christian Fraser reports from the French capital Paris.

Spain and Belgium are debating similar legislation and, with such large-scale immigration in the past 20 or 30 years, identity has become a popular theme across Europe, our correspondent says.

'Open-faced democracy'
The bill in front of the lower house of parliament would make it illegal to wear the niqab or burka anywhere in public.

It envisages fines of 150 euros (£119) for women who break the law and 30,000 euros and a year jail term for men who force their wives to wear the burka.

The niqab and burka are widely seen in France as threats to women's rights and the secular nature of the state.

Parliament passed a resolution in May describing the wearing of the full veil as an "attack on dignity and equality between men and women", and "contrary to the values of the [French] Republic".

"Democracy thrives when it is open-faced," Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told the National Assembly when she presented the bill last week.

She stressed the bill, which makes no reference to Islam or veils, was not aimed at "stigmatising or singling out a religion".

Berengere Poletti, an MP from Mr Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party, said women in full veils wore "a sign of alienation on their faces" and had to be "liberated".

Andre Gerin of the Communist opposition compared the to "a walking coffin, a muzzle".

'Fear of foreigners'

The bill is also seen as a touchstone for the Sarkozy administration's policy of integration as it grapples with disaffected immigrant communities, seeking to prevent a repeat of the mass unrest of 2005 on run-down Parisian housing estates.

But critics point to government studies showing that many women do not fit the stereotype of marginalised, oppressed women.

There are estimated to be only about 2,000 women wearing the full veil in France though the bill is opposed by many of France's five million Muslims.

Jean Glavany, a Socialist MP, said he opposed the ban on the grounds that it was "nothing more than the fear of those who are different, who come from abroad, who aren't like us, who don't share our values".

If the bill passes both houses of parliament, it will be sent immediately to France's Constitutional Council watchdog for a ruling.

Another challenge is possible at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where decisions are binding.

In another development, a French businessman, Rachid Nekkaz, said he would set up a 1m-euro fund to help women pay fines imposed under the new law.

A ban in the street would violate constitutional principles, he argued.



Anonymous said...

There are many that will cry that banning the burka is infringing on someone's rights. In my opinion, the burka and hijab's sole purpose is covering the woman to make her modest and morally correct; to save her beauty for her husband only. It IS sexest no matter how you want to explain it. I know this sounds a bit right-wingish, but I think we need to create boundaries with these cultures that have such extreme beliefs... I say this because I have just read articles in which the term honor killing has actually been used as a defense in a murder case right here in Canada. WTF??

gsw said...

Critics point out that only a tiny minority (which is now tripple that of 2 years ago) wear the full veil.

This just proves that the veil is not a religious requirement but a personal idiosyncrasy, which endangers others - particularly children - and should therefore be forbidden as is the naked male in public.

Perhaps the French could have a plage pas-de-naturalist where these people could gather to indulge in their strange habits.