Today the French Government began a debate on the banning of Muslim-garments which cover a woman's face or body. Such garments include the Burqa, which covers a woman's entire body and face and the niqab, which covers the face and neck. The vote in the French Parliament was called after the French Council of Ministers approved the measure in May.
This is only one step in a process that has been taking place over the course of the past year when a group of lawmakers recommended the ban and in May they passed a non-binding resolution which noted the full face veil was entirely contrary to the French Constitution.
The law envisions a 150 euro fine for those who are caught voluntarily wearing a face covering veil. This could either be replaced by a citizenship course or supported by it. The fine for enforcing the wearing of such a veil is a maximum of 15,000 euros or a year in prison.
While the Government doesn't keep its own official statistics on the number of Muslims in the country unofficial figures place the number at 3.5 million or 6 percent of the population.
However, another European country is on the way to becoming the first in the continent to instigate a nationwide ban on the burqa and other forms of Muslim dress. That country is Belgium. The proposition has already been carried in the lower house of the Parliament and is awaiting ratification from a vote in the upper house. I, for one hope that they see sense.
Mainland Western Europe has always been lauded by liberals as a region that celebrates equality and protects human rights. Indeed, many people on this reserved and conservative island look to our more cosmopolitan European brethren in envy.
However, these measures are an affront to the human rights which the EU professes to protect. If I as a man decided to walk out of my house wearing a burqa tomorrow I am clearly not doing so because I am a dominated women. I do it because it is my right as an equal member of a free and democratic society. If we start to limit these freedoms in any way then we are taking a step backwards. Forcing women to disown an item of clothing she has chosen to wear is clearly a sign of a state whereby the Government is insecure and controlling. I am not one for conspiracy theories at all but this is one of the most dangerous and frightening developments in European politics in recent years.
I'd love to hear what you guys think. Drop a comment and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.