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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ban on Burqa in France?

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.

While the ban is absolutely backed by the Government who dubbed the dress "a new form of enslavement which the Republic cannot tolerate on its soil" some major discontent has been voiced. Amnesty International has spoken out about the proposed ban and the French Council of State has stated that it may violate both the international charter of human rights and also the Constitution of the Republic.

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.


  1. On one hand it is true that nobody should be forcing the Muslim women not to wear the Burqa, but at the same time no one should force them to do so either. It's really a case of "damned if you do, damned if you don't." Some say that since no one is allowed inside a bank or any secure facility wearing, say, a motorbike helmet, then why should this be any different? Some of these women probably are oppressed. Others are clearly not and they do speak plainly and openly about not having the slightest problem with the Burqa. Whether that's a forced confession or not remains to be seen, but it is there none-the-less. However, I think it would be true to say that the expatriate Muslims who decide to resettle in Europe should respect the culture and the laws upheld by that country. One may hazard a guess that they moved away from their respective countries because of religious oppression and intolerance. Likewise, vocal religious groups, be they Muslim or Christian, are always quick to cry persecution when they are denied something on foreign soil, but expect to have their values tolerated and accepted regardless. The situation is actually rotten from both sides. Since the European governments in question cannot vouch for everyone's actual freedom guaranteed under their own constitution, they may feel like banning the Burqa is a good move. But is that really the problem? I do honestly think that Muslims who choose to emigrate to France, or anywhere else for that matter, should observe the rules and regulations present in that state, just as we would be obliged to do if we were to go to their country. At the same time, this whole thing seems like a populist knee-jerk reaction since everyone is out to get the mythical Muslim Boogeyman. I think we should grow up first, and then we can face these questions.

  2. I appreciate that many Muslim woman are forced into the wearing of head scarfs but that is no reason to enforce those who choose to wear them not to.

    If we give into censorship of people on level as personal as this it leaves us open to limiting a wealth of other freedoms. We cannot give into Islamophobia.

    Also the idea of them living by our rules I dont agree with. In Western countries we pride ourselves on freedom of expression and speech. And banning the Burqa is establishing an anti-Christain versus anti-Islam world which benefits no-one.

    Thanks very much for the comment.