PARIS (Reuters) – Only 367 women in France wear Islamic veils that cover their faces and bodies, a newspaper reported on Wednesday, undermining the position of politicians who are pushing for a ban on the garments.
A panel of legislators is studying the issue of whether the number of women wearing such veils is on the rise and why. The panel is expected to say in coming months whether it backs a ban on the veils in public places, as advocated by some politicians.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has stopped short of backing a ban, but has said the veils were “not welcome” in France.
The influential newspaper Le Monde said that in light of the tiny number of women concerned, the idea of a ban should be dropped.
“Do we need to legislate for fewer than 400 people, legislate for an exception? … Given the risks, including the stigmatisation of Islam … the answer is no,” it said in an editorial.
In France, there is near unanimity against veils that hide a woman’s face. These are seen as a violation of women’s rights, often imposed by fundamentalist men.
However, there are strong disagreements about whether it would be wise or helpful to legislate against the garments.
Le Monde said it had seen reports by two separate domestic intelligence agencies that both found only a tiny minority of Muslim women wore such veils. One of the reports gave a figure: 367 women in the whole country.
France has Europe’s biggest Muslim community, estimated at 5 million. Continue reading