Veiled Threat: The many problems with France’s proposed burqa ban


A woman wearing a burqa.

By Wajahat Ali
Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2010, at 2:37 PM ET

As a practicing Muslim, even I admit to being somewhat startled by the appearance of the black burqa that entirely veils a woman’s face and body, revealing only a narrow opening for her eyes. Even though the women who wear burqas sometimes remind me of comic book ninjas, I nonetheless understand and respect their choice of dress and freedom of religious expression.

Unfortunately, France’s proposed ban on the burqa is a hypocritical and self-serving justification that betrays its triptych motto of “liberty, equality, fraternity.” Politicians may claim that the ban would protect women’s dignity, national safety, and fundamental French values, but in reality, this overreaching legislation serves only to embolden reactionary Muslim fundamentalists’ shouts that the “West” is at war with “Islam.” Enacting this odious legislation would deprive French female citizens of those very freedoms Europe loudly trumpets as superior examples of its Western enlightenment: gender equality and tolerance. In fact, France is increasingly beginning to resemble its alleged cultural nemesis: those misogynist, archaic “fundamentalists” who allegedly liberate women by forcing them to hide their faces.

France, like many European countries, is reacting to the transformation of its national identity to one that is increasingly brown-hued and adorned with Arabic multisyllabic last names. But lashing out against native-born Muslim citizens and immigrants from North Africa is no way to protect and define its language and “culture”—which is under no tangible threat. Like the Taliban and the Saudi government, France is selfishly using women as silent chess pawns in the greater game of cultural domination and control, and using the canard of protecting women’s rights and national security as a means of rationalizing its bigotry. Continue reading

To Burqa or not to Burqa? An American Muslim Woman’s Response to a French Burqa Ban


AnAmerican Muslim Woman’s Response to a French Burqa Ban

Rabea Chaudhry

Earlier this week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy lambasted the burqa while voicing his support of lawmakers who seek to study the growing trend of burqas in the country and prohibit the wearing of the garment in France. Sarkozy stated that “in our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.”

Still raw from the 2004 French hijab ban that prohibited the headscarf and other religious paraphernalia from being worn in public schools, some of France’s five million Muslims are speaking out against the potential legislation.  The French Council for Muslim Religion, for instance, warned that probing the burqa issue would only stigmatize Muslims further.  Muslim leaders around the world have also voiced their opposition to Sarkozy’s remarks, and cautioned against such a ban.

But as Sarkozy declared to the French Parliament, “the problem of the burqa is not a religious problem, it is a problem of the dignity of women. It is a symbol of subservience, of submission. The burqa will not be welcome in our French republic.” However, France is a secular nation and, as such, the French government has no right to espouse interpretations of any religion.  As a French law on the separation of church and state reads, “The Republic neither recognizes, nor salaries, nor subsidizes any religion.”   Why, then, does the French government presume the right to delve into theological discussions of Islam? Continue reading

France Burqa Ban?

Two women, one wearing the niqab, a veil worn by the most conservative Muslims that exposes only a woman’s eyes, right, walk side by side, in the Belsunce district of downtown Marseille, central France, Friday June 19, 2009. The French government’s spokesman says he favors the creation of a parliamentary commission to study the small but growing trend of burqa wear in France. Luc Chatel says the commission could possibly propose legislation aimed at banning the burqa and other fully covering garments worn by some Muslim women. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

By JENNY BARCHFIELD – 10 hours ago

PARIS (AP) — France wants to study the small but growing trend of burqa wear, with an eye to possibly banning the Islamic garment from being worn in public, the government’s spokesman said Friday.

Luc Chatel told France-2 television that the government would seek to set up a parliamentary commission that could propose legislation aimed at barring Muslim women from wearing the burqa and other fully covering gowns outside the home.

“If we find that use of the burqa was very clearly imposed (on women) … we would draw the appropriate conclusions,” Chatel said. Asked whether that could mean legislation banning the burqa in France, he responded “why not?” Continue reading

France bans immigrants wearing burqas in state language classes – how tolerant.

PARIS — In secular France, it is illegal for hotel owners to turn away women wearing Muslim headscarves but OK to ban those wearing head-to-toe burqas from state-sponsored French language classes.

Two recent decisions have demonstrated how tough and touchy it is to legislate religious expression in a country that has a long-standing separation between church and state — and an increasingly multicultural society with a growing Muslim population.

“Religious freedom is not absolute,” the head of France’s government anti-discrimination agency, Louis Schweitzer, said in an interview with the Catholic daily La Croix, published Thursday. He said authorities are trying to find “the most reasonable compromise.” Continue reading