> A French court has approved a law banning full-facial veils in public, despite warnings from the Muslim society.

A French court has approved a scandalous law banning full-facial veils in public, despite warnings from the Muslim society.

Human rights organisations and other experts have argued that restrictions on wearing religious clothing could provoke aggression from Muslims in France, considered to have the highest proportion of practicing Muslims in Europe, with every tenth person being a member of the religion.

Many European citizens consider these laws fair; Muslims living in Europe should correspond to the European rules and values, just as a European in an Islamic society also should

Representatives of Islam argue that such laws are breaking their right to religious preference. In all democratic countries, the constitution claims that each person has a right and freedom to choose any religion and conform to it.

So, is the ban an infringement of the women’s religious rights, or is it a measure to further promote integration of Muslim culture into European values?

President of France is trying to protect women’s rights.

The ban of wearing the burqa and niqab in France in public places was actively discussed for the last few weeks in the country’s National Parliament. According to a survey in France, which was carried out by American research centre Pew, 82% of the respondents supported the ban to wear full-face veils in public.

One of the main supporters to approve the law was the President of France, Nikola Sarkozy. He is convinced that the wearing of clothes that completely hide a women’s body and face contradicts national French values and is unacceptable in any European state. The burqa and niqab themselves are considered by many to be a new (to the West) symbol of female slavery. The government argues that this law will help to protect basic human rights. After all, France is a free country where each person has the right to take part and integrate in social life, dress and act as he or she wants, without contravening the ideas of Human Rights.

The Penalty

The law passed by the French court divided what clothing into two simple categories: what women are and are not allowed to wear.

Burqas will now have to be completely excluded from any woman’s wardrobe. Wearing the burqa or niqab will not be possible not only in governmental or educational institutions, but also on streets. The French government have deigned that the veil ban will not be valid in mosques, otherwise the law would unarguably be denying women religious freedom.

For  any law infringement, strict penalties will be set. Women who do wear the burqa will be compelled to pay 150 Euros, and if it is found that a man has forced his wife or daughter to wear burqa, he may be fined up to 30,000 Euros. These offenders could also be put in prison up to one year.

It will be six months until this law is legally passed. However, the police promise to create special “pedagogical lectures” for women, where they will be told about their female and citizen’s rights in French society.

Is this ‘Discrimination’?

Meanwhile, the community of Muslims in France have claimed this law is discrimination toward Islam, and that it should be the right for everyone to practice any religion they believe.

However, French authorities see this ban as a part of their national security, as it enables them to identify criminals or active terrorists.

According to UMP Party member, Jaques Myard, in his interview to Al Jazeera TV on 6th July 2010:

“If you refuse to let me see you face, then I am the victim, because I don’t know who you are. (…) you put yourself in a ghetto: you’re excluding me from friendly interaction”.

Some radical Islamic organisations have threatened the French government with carrying out of mass protests and disobedience. Representatives of the Muslim community say that the law will not force women to cease to wear the clothes they are used to.

Us VS Them

The debate on wearing religious clothing in France is not a new one.

In 2004, a law was introduced that made it forbidden to wear any accessories with religious symbols in state schools, including the hidjab – the Muslim scarf that covers the head. However, it wasn’t only the Muslim faith that was affected; Christian crosses and Jewish bales were disallowed in public schools or universities.

In Europe, the division between “us” and “them” is brightly expressed. The Majority consider Islamic followers as “strangers”: they have different customs, strange clothes; they are too old-fashioned and conservative. To create a more prospering and equal society, it is necessary to create more substantial values for different cultures to share.

 A scandalous video – “NIQABITCH SECOUE PARIS

Two French students, who were dissatisfied with an interdiction for wearing burqa, have filmed a three minute short film, in which they walk the streets of Paris in burqa and mini shorts. This video began a debate on YouTube for those who are “for” and “against” the ban.

In their video, the two females pass by a variety of governmental buildings. When they approach the Ministry of immigration affairs, they are asked to leave by the police. However, the policeman expresses their admiration on the girls’ appearance and takes a couple of pictures of them. Shocked and rather surprised, people on the streets ask them to take some photographs too.

Commenting on their own video, the students, one of who is Muslim, claimed that the video is their protest of the veil ban.  

Who’s next?

France is not the only country that forbids wearing religious clothing. Various degree of rigidity interdictions for wearing traditional Muslim clothes operate in many other countries.

In Holland it is impossible to wear the burqa or niqab in any public places. However, women are allowed to wear hidjab. In territory of eight federal lands of Germany, women are unable to wear hidjab in educational institutions. Since March 2009 the list of the countries where it is forbidden to wear hidjab in educational institutions, has replenished with Kirghizia.

In a world that is already hostile towards Religion, is the ban on Veil’s one step too far in religious tolerance?

Yuliya Yegorova