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French Lower House of Parliament Vote to Ban Face Veil

The latest development in the face veil ban legislation in France.

French MPs vote to ban Islamic full veil in public

France’s lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban wearing the Islamic full veil in public.

There were 335 votes for the bill and only one against in the 557-seat National Assembly.

It must now be ratified by the Senate in September to become law.

The ban has strong public support but critics point out that only a tiny minority of French Muslims wear the full veil.

Many of the opposition Socialists, who originally wanted the ban limited only to public buildings, abstained from voting after coming under pressure from feminist supporters of the bill.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has backed the ban as part of a wider debate on French identity but critics say the government is pandering to far-right voters.

After the vote, Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said it was a victory for democracy and for French values.

“Values of freedom against all the oppressions which try to humiliate individuals; values of equality between men and women, against those who push for inequality and injustice.”

The vote is being 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 would make it illegal to wear garments such as the niqab or burka, which incorporate a full-face veil, anywhere in public.

It envisages fines of 150 euros (£119) for women who break the law and 30,000 euros and a one-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.

“Democracy thrives when it is open-faced,” Ms 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 veil 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. It is grappling with disaffected immigrant communities as it seeks to prevent a repeat of the mass unrest of 2005 on run-down French housing estates.

PATH TO VEIL BAN

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.

Mohammed Moussaoui, the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, a government advisory body, has supported taking steps to discourage women from wearing the full veil but has said a legal ban would stigmatise a vulnerable group.

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”.

The Council of State, France’s highest administrative body, warned in March that the law could be found unconstitutional.

If the bill passes the Senate in September, 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.

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  • George Carty

    @DrM

    I don’t think that France is racist (racism tends to be stronger in Germanic Europe than in Latin Europe). “Monoculturalist” is the best descriptor in my view, although “Islamophobic” is also reasonable (although that is probably because Muslim cultures are the most resistant to assimilation).

    In fact, I’d suggest that racial diversity, cultural diversity and religious diversity are three separate issues.

  • nat

    Elaine, what if it is a cultural thing? Don’t people have the freedom to decide for themselves what they wear, and on what motivation they wear it for?

    The question is not ‘What is this person’s motive for wearing this clothing?”, it is “Should this person’s clothing be illegal?”. Their motives are immaterial, and different people may wear it for different reasons.

    In any case, you can’t force someone to enjoy the ‘wind in their faces’ etc, when that is not a priority for them.

  • Elaine

    @DrM
    “I didn’t know veils prevented women from hiking, playing frisbee or going to the park etc”

    Have you done it ? Have you ever tried to hike up a mountain side with such limited vision. Have you ever tried to play frisbee in the park with a veil over your face ? (Note; I did NOT say they couldn’t “go to the park” )

    I am not obsessed with anyones clothes and you know nothing about me. I am not the one patronizing anyone. The point of living together as human beings is to share ideas. We can learn from each other. Muslims can learn from Christians,Jews, Buddhists, etc. and they can learn from Muslims. I was trying to raise an issue beyond the usual “maybe some women want to wear it” Maybe they do, but why should they ? I do believe there could be a more intelligent conversation than this. I am very sorry if you can’t handle it.

    Sheesh some people really need to calm down.

  • DrM

    @Elaine,

    Syria(run by a secular Alawi regime) passed this ban due to French pressure, given that it’s the only country in Western Europe the Syrians have good relations with. You’ll find similar bans in Algeria and Tunisia, client regime run by Francophone secular elites and Generals who take their orders from Paris.
    I didn’t know veils prevented women from hiking, playing frisbee or going to the park etc,[insert sarcasm] How about you patronizing lot get over yourselves and find a hobby which doesn’t involve obsessing over other people’s clothes? It’s bordering on an anti-Muslim colonial psychosis.

    @Sir David,
    I’ve never been to France, nor have a desire to do so. One doesn’t have to jump in the sewer to know that it stinks. The French are blatantly anti-Muslim and I’ve seen enough examples in the last 20 years to confirm this.

  • Elaine

    I am curious to know if you will post any article on the recent news that Syria has now banned the veil in their schools and universities ?

    If you do then maybe then we can actually have an intelligent conversation about the veil.

    These bans taking place in europe are certainly based in Islamophobia BUT what are the reasons for it taking place in Syria ? How will it be a bad thing if women stop wearing the veil ? Will it be such a bad thing if they can enjoy a cold drink in public on a hot day ? Will it be so bad if they can feel the wind on their face, hike up a mountain side or play frisbee in the park with their kids ?
    If there are women that actually chose to wear it, where did they get the idea that they should ? Maybe the idea is not actually based in Islam (as even some Islamic scholars say), but it is a cultural thing.

  • George Carty

    Firstly, I’d recommend a look at the Sp!ked Online article Banning the burqa is an assault on secular values.

    @Sir David

    I remember once reading about how the English theme park Alton Towers had banned speedos in its pools, and was shocked to find outraged readers on a German blog posting referring to Britain as “Dhimmitanien” (instead of “Britannien”), along with other Islamophobic remarks, in reference to this policy.

    The most galling thing is that they assumed the policy was about appeasing Muslims, even though there was no reference at all to Islam or Muslims in the original article!

  • Mossizzle

    Halloween is going to be tough for children dressing up as ghosts. Also covering up your face with a hankerchief when sneezing is now going to be an offence.

    What about plays when masks are used? If the whole thing is that the veil makes it difficult to identify people then they should also ban face-altering plastic surgery.

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32)

    Although I think Dr M goes too far in his comments (you dont live in france do you ?) and think the food comments unwarrented .
    I think he has a point at the fact that the eliet in france are trying to hide the large problems of political corruption and economic uncertancy by all shouting together look at that scary woman in the burka.
    David they do force over weight middle aged men to wear speedos when they go to public swimming pools . Thats why I never go swimming 🙂

  • Mossizzle

    Perhaps Muslim women in France should hold a “Walk into work with a Burqa day”. They can’t fine all of them.

  • DrM

    Polls show that France is the most racist country in Europe. With a nation in economic recession with a President mired in a corruption scandal it’s lawmakers would have more urgent matters to tend to. Ironic to hear about “female dignity” coming from a people who widely tolerate men taking on mistresses. Prostitution? Yes! Incest? No problem! Bestiality? Semi-legal. Burkhas? No way! The French are such an obnoxious, hypocritical and idiotic lot. Newsflash frogs, not everyone wants to eat slugs, diseased cirrhotic goose livers and raw mince meat ….. sorry that would be ‘escargots’, ‘pate de foie gras’ and ‘steak tartare’, saying it with a French accent doesn’t make it any less repulsive.

    As for “morris wise,” his attempt to sound clever and condescending is pathetic. Probably upset the US welfare hasn’t come in the mail, building settlements on Palestinian homes costs money ya know.

  • your father

    @morris wise

    Dude what the hell are you on and if it’s that good can I try some?

    Comment made no sense

  • Biz

    Mandy,

    I agree with you completely especially about Crocs. I am not a Muslim woman but I am not sure how limiting ones freedoms is some how increasing them. That sounds like an oxymoron to me.

  • morris wise

    Camel owners understand that without proper training the camel is wild and worthless, only after months of beatings a camel has earned the right to wear a saddle. Training a bride is more difficult, she is also wild and worthless and it takes years of harsh discipline before she is fit to be called a wife. A man can be judged by his camel and the obedience of his family, a man with an untrained family and a wild camel is an apostate, and should be stoned to death.

  • Lena Rose

    “After the vote, Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said it was a victory for democracy and for French values. ‘Values of freedom against all the oppressions which try to humiliate individuals; values of equality between men and women, against those who push for inequality and injustice.'”

    This moves beyond ironic to disgusting. Doesn’t she realize that forcing a woman to show more of herself than she chooses to is humiliating an individual? These sanctimonious, pompous, condescending bigots don’t know the meaning of freedom, equality or justice.

  • Lena Rose

    “Many of the opposition Socialists, who originally wanted the ban limited only to public buildings, abstained from voting after coming under pressure from feminist supporters of the bill.”

    I still find it ironic that supposed feminists are among those supporting a law to restrict what women can wear.

  • Ali

    The banning of the veil is an attack on the democratic rights of ALL French people. It sets a precedent whereby the French state can effectively outlaw political beliefs and practices contrary to its interests. The French ruling elite is seeking to direct people’s anger towards Muslims as it imposes the burden of the economic crisis on working people by imposing unpopular austerity measures. Sarkozy is also embroiled in numerous scandals and has been revealed to be hopelessly corrupt. They are desperately trying to divide working people and and distract them from real issues.

  • Les Smith

    I prefer not to see some faces…

  • Bass

    This is an idiot’s law.

    So, the idea to ban the veil is to stop oppression.

    What if a woman decides to wear the veil because she *wants* to? Maybe out of religious devotion, but maybe because she didn’t have time to put make up on. She gets fined? Is that oppression?

    What if it’s raining, and windy, and snowing, and a woman decides to put on a veil to cover her face against the harsh winds? Does she get fined?

    What if a *man* decides to wear a veil? Does he get fined?

    Banning the veil is an impractical hypocrisy that says, “Oppression is wrong, unless we’re the ones doing it.”

  • Abdulmajid

    Idiots!

  • Mandy

    “Values of freedom against all the oppressions which try to humiliate individuals; values of equality between men and women, against those who push for inequality and injustice.”

    That bothers me a lot. It’s implying that the woman who wear these garments are meek beings who can’t possibly be wearing them because they want to. It’s insulting, because basically they’re saying that Muslim women are incapable of having any sort of autonomy whatsoever, and are wholly governed by their male counterparts.

    I have an idea. How ’bout they ban booty shorts and bikinis, because they promote the objectification of the female body. And while we’re at it, studded leather jackets should be banned too, as they are obviously linked to gang violence. They should also ban Crocs because–well–because they’re just effing hideous.

    If they’re going to take that sort of slant on one thing, they should on everything.

    “The niqab and burka are widely seen in France as threats to…the secular nature of the state.”

    Huh???? How??? People choose to wear niqabs and burkas, the government doesn’t force them to. So I don’t see how it’s a threat. :/

    I mean, in that case, are they also going to ban yamakas, nun veils and crucifix necklaces? It’s the same sort of idea.

    This whole thing is ridiculous. This shouldn’t even be an issue. As a Muslim woman, I don’t particularly agree with the idea of wearing the veil, but I absolutely respect someone’s choice to do so.

  • David

    The next bill to be sponsored will mandate that all overweight French males MUST be forced to wear speedos on the Metro. We can’t have people going around hiding too much of their, er, person from the public.

  • mindy1

    This is soo lame. I don’t agree with the veil, but shouldn’t it be up to the woman?

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

    Do they think they will find even one man who makes his wife wear the burka? Especially living in France!

    There needs to be a rally with 100’s/1000’s of women (of all religions) wearing niqab. There should have been already 🙁
    This is a point feminist really need to study firsthand, ask the women themselves why they wear veil.

    ___
    So, what is going on in Spain now? I’d like to see a report on that.

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