Veil Debate Renewed in France

A French parliamentary committee released a nearly 200 page report yesterday that recommends banning face veils in certain public spaces, including on public transportation and at schools, hospitals, and government offices. According to the New York Times, only 14 members of the 32 member committee voted, eight in favor of the report and six against.

According to the BBC, the report said that “the wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our republic. This is unacceptable. We must condemn this excess.” As the commission delivered the report, National Assembly President Bernard Accoyer said, “The full veil represents in an extraordinary way everything that France spontaneously rejects…It’s a symbol of the subjugation of women and the banner of extremist fundamentalism,” according to Reuters. Those who oppose the ban criticize it as xenophobic. Jamel Debbouze, a French comedian with Moroccan ancestry, told a radio station that, “people who go down that path [of the ban] are racists.”

President Nicolas Sarkozy announced his opposition to the burqa, the head-to-toe garment worn by some Islamic women In a speech to a joint session of the French Parliament in June 2009. In this speech, he said “The burqa is not welcome in French territory…In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,” reported the Wall Street Journal. This speech, the first presidential address to the legislature in over a century, urged the Parliament to examine the practice of Muslim women in France wearing the burqa. In 2004 the French Parliament passed a law banning students from wearing veils and other religious symbols in public schools.

It is estimated that only about 1,900 women in France wear the full veils that are the subject of the report.


BBC 1/26/10; New York Times 1/26/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 6/23/09

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