The new effort to outlaw the full-length veil - niqabs and burqas - in public trumps earlier efforts to ban it only in some official buildings. The move comes at a time when French Muslims say they are being targeted as outsiders or not fully French.
The French ruling party of President Nicolas Sarkozy now affirms it will present a bill to ban full-length Islamic veils in all public places in France. It won't wait for the results of a parliamentary inquiry into the all-covering niqab and burqa to be published. The move adds fuel to an increasingly hot debate on French identity that has minorities here upset.
A nationwide identity debate, engineered by the ruling UMP party last month, has evolved into an embarrassingly unruly discussion about Muslims and northern Africans in France. And it comes on the heels of a surprise vote in neighboring Switzerland last month to outlaw the construction of new minarets at Muslim worship sites.
The UMP effort to outlaw the full-length veil in public trumps earlier efforts to ban it only in some official buildings, and comes at a time when French Muslims say they are being targeted as outsiders or not fully French.
Yet UMP party leader Jean-François Cope yesterday said veils that cover a woman’s entire face are a “violation of individual liberty” and a “negation” of one’s identity and that of others in a public milieu.
Under the proposed law, women would not be able to move in public with their faces fully covered. The legal rendering is that burqas and all-covering niqabs are a public order issue, and not a religious practice issue - as is the French ban on headscarves in schools, which has been carried out to uphold French secularism, known as laïcité.
Offenders wearing veils would receive a fine – though lawmakers now say there will be a period of mediation following the initial charge.
A parliamentary vote on the ban is expected in early January. That means it will preceed the almost-completed findings of a national study established with much fanfare last summer – when the burqa issue rose to prominence in a speech by Mr. Sarkozy. He said the veil dehumanizes women, is out of keeping with French values, and is “not welcome” in France.