French Senate votes overwhelmingly to ban Islamic face veils; controversies continue



French Senate votes overwhelmingly to ban Islamic face veils; controversies continue.

What are Your Thoughts on this issue/news? Write them below in our comments column, here at Is it a realistic move to the security considerations of France against potential terrorists in veils OR an excessive response to conservative Muslim women who prefer to cover their faces? Or….


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By Elaine Ganley, Associated Press (Paris) September 14, 2010: The French Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bill banning the burqa-style Islamic veil on public streets and other places, a measure that affects less than 2,000 women but that has been widely seen as a symbolic defense of French values.

The Senate voted 246 to 1 in favor of the bill in a final step toward making the ban a law — though it now must pass muster with France’s constitutional watchdog. The bill was overwhelmingly passed in July in the lower house, the National Assembly.

Many Muslims believe the legislation is one more blow to France’s No. 2 religion, and risks raising the level of Islamophobia in a country where mosques, like synagogues, are sporadic targets of hate.

However, the law’s many proponents say it will preserve the nation’s values, including its secular foundations and a notion of fraternity that is contrary to those who hide their faces.

US President Barack Obama_hosts_islamic_iftar_at_whitehouse2010

In an attempt to head off any legal challenges over arguments it tramples on religious and other freedoms, the leaders of both parliamentary houses said they had asked a special body to ensure it passes constitutional muster. The Constitutional Council has one month to rule.

The bill is worded to trip safely through legal minefields. For instance, the words “women,” ”Muslim” and “veil” are not even mentioned in any of its seven articles.

“This law was the object of long and complex debates,” the Senate president, Gerard Larcher, and National Assembly head Bernard Accoyer said in a joint statement announcing their move. They said they want to be certain there is “no uncertainty” about its conforming to the constitution.

France would be the first European country to pass such a law, though others, notably neighboring Belgium, are considering laws against face-covering veils, seen as conflicting with the local culture.

“Our duty concerning such fundamental principles of our society is to speak with one voice,” said Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, opening a less than 5-hour-long debate ahead of the vote.

The measure, carried by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative party, was passed by the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, on July 13.

It would outlaw face-covering veils, including those worn by tourists from the Middle East, on public streets and elsewhere. The bill set fines of euro150 ($185) or citizenship classes for any woman caught covering her face, or both. It also carries stiff penalties for anyone, such as husbands or brothers, convicted of forcing the veil on a woman. The euro30,000 ($38,400) fine and year in prison are doubled if the victim is a minor.

The bill is aimed at ensuring gender equality, women’s dignity and security, as well as upholding France’s secular values — and its way of life.

Some women, like Kenza Drider, have vowed to wear a full-face veil despite a law. Drider says she prefers to flirt with arrest rather than bow to what she says is an injustice.

“It is a law that is unlawful,” said Drider, a mother of four from Avignon, in southern France. “It is … against individual liberty, freedom of religion, liberty of conscience,” she said.

“I will continue to live my life as I always have with my full veil,” she told Associated Press Television News.

Drider was the only woman who wears a full-faced veil to be interviewed by a parliamentary panel that spent six months deciding whether to move ahead with legislation.

Muslim leaders concur that Islam does not require a woman to hide her face. However, they have voiced concerns that a law forbidding them to do so would stigmatize the French Muslim population, which at an estimated 5 million is the largest in western Europe. Numerous Muslim women who wear the face-covering veil have said they are being increasingly harassed in the streets.

However, the bill has its Muslim defenders, like a women’s rights group active in heavily immigrant neighborhoods.

“How can we allow the burqa here and at the same time fight the Taliban and all the fundamentalist groups across the world?” said the president of NPNS, Sihem Habchi. “I’m Muslim and I can’t accept that because I’m a woman I have to disappear,” she told APTN.

Raphael Liogier, a sociology professor who heads the Observatory of the Religious in Aix-en-Provence, says that Muslims in France are already targeted by hate-mongers and the ban on face-covering veils “will officialize Islamophobia.”

“With the identity crisis that France has today, the scapegoat is the Muslim,” he told The Associated Press.

Indeed, the justice minister said that the French “ask about the future of their society, of their nation” as they “see the internationalization of our society.”

“The Senate must guarantee the permanence of our values … which forge our identity,” she said.

Ironically, instead of helping some women integrate, the measure may keep them cloistered in their homes to avoid exposing their faces in public.

“I won’t go out. I’ll send people to shop for me. I’ll stay home, very simply,” said Oum Al Khyr, who wears a “niqab” that hides all but the eyes.

“I’ll spend my time praying,” said the single woman “over age 45” who lives in Montreuil on Paris’ eastern edge. “I’ll exclude myself from society when I wanted to live in it.”

The law banning the veil would take effect only after a six-month period designed to convince women to show their faces.

The Interior Ministry estimates the number of women who fully cover themselves at some 1,900, with a quarter of them converts to Islam and two-thirds with French nationality.

The French parliament wasted no time in working to get a ban in place, opening an inquiry shortly after the French president said in June 2009 that full veils that hide the face are “not welcome” in France.

It was unclear, however, how police would enforce the law, from handing out fines to hunting down any men who might force the veil on their wives and daughters. “I will accept the fine with great pleasure,” said Drider, vowing to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if she gets caught. (AP writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report).

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What are Your Thoughts on this issue/news? Write them below in our comments column, here at Is it a realistic move to the security considerations of France against potential terrorists in veils OR an excessive response to conservative Muslim women who prefer to cover their faces? Or…
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  1. Did anybody ask the women whether they still admired themselves with their veil on? Indeed, in many parts of the world, the problem has always been with extremists especially the religionists among them. One practical Muslim I have known for more than 30 years has insisted that, if you hide a promiscuous woman behind 20 walled gates the day she sees the sky she will be promiscuous. Conversely, this person also says, a faithful woman left to live free in the stadium will protect her honour and dignity fiercely no matter how many men see her face per hour.


  3. The world, as everyone is aware, had since become a global village. Information, these days, is at the tip of the finger to who so desires by just the click of a mouse! Security issues as it pertains to the wearing of a veil( a mask) no doubt, is a good weapon to use by whosoever is inclined to perpetrate a crime, namely terrorist act or such other dastardly acts and yet evade capture by the authorities. The veil distorts the profile of the wearer not even when it so wickedly limits the appreciation of a particular gender. But then, faith as we have come to appreciate, borders on something one can not always rationalize. If you can read in between the line, the veil had been rent more than two thousand years ago which hitherto had separated the worshipper from his Deity. Today, no one needs the veil to separate the holies of holies, where the Deity dwelled from the priest and his followers. France is part of the global village and is sensitive to clear security breaches the world over. It's only a tree that remains unmoved even before a threatening axe wielding man. In commenting on the wisdom of the French senate passing a law that effectively bans the wearing of a veil by muslim women, I dare guess to say that the men and women who voted in favor were only choosing the option of being proactive. On a lighter mood, maybe the women wearing the veil are just being smart; remember Paris is the fabled city of lights and fashion headquarters of the world. The veil reduces the intensity of the ever shimmering lights and also checks their expenses as in keeping up with the ever changing fashion of Paris and the whole of France! Lastly we can now see beyond the veil!

  4. Whatever happened to religious freedom. Islamophobia on the rise. By the way how many muslims are in the French senate?


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