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Saturday 20 December  
Women wearing the burqa
Frank Renout's picture
Paris, France
Paris, France

French burqa ban in line with European trend

Published on : 13 July 2010 - 8:28pm | By Frank Renout (Wikimedia Commons)
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French MPs have voted to ban the burqa and niqab. The move is in line with a Europe-wide trend. The French are fully aware that a ban is risky. That is why a fierce and often principled debate has resulted in a draft law that is clear and pragmatic.

Just one year ago, a French parliamentary committee began looking at whether a ban would be possible. Its members came from across the political spectrum. A communist deputy had tabled the idea of legislation.

Months of practical and legal research led to the conclusion that the garments could indeed be banned. The result was backed by President Nicolas Sarkozy. “The burqa is not an expression of religion, but a sign of subjection. The burqa is not welcome in France,” he said.

Eyes covered
People on both the left and right of French politics are largely in agreement that the all-concealing garments worn by Islamic women should not be allowed. Parliament’s lower house has now voted to outlaw the niqab, which covers the whole body with the exception of the eyes, and the burqa which even covers the eyes - with a piece of gauze.

The socialist opposition was not willing to vote for the measure because of problems with Mr Sarkozy’s approach but is broadly in favour of a ban. The socialists actually helped draft the legislation.

150-euro fine
A woman wearing the burqa in a public building or place in France will soon be liable for a fine of 150 euros. Anyone forcing her to wear such a garment will face a fine of 30,000 euros or a one-year prison sentence.

The imposition of a ban and the breadth of support for it comes as no surprise. France and other Western countries have regularly accepted large groups of migrants over recent decades. However, the world has fundamentally changed since the Muslim extremist attacks of 11 September 2001.

Islam has become suspect for many in the West and everything that can be construed as Islamic extremism engenders fear. This has led to a debate about West-European ‘identity’. How should migrants to the European Union integrate? What constitute European norms and values?

New regulations have resulted from the debate. As early as 2007, Great Britain made it possible to ban the burqa in schools. Last year, the Swiss electorate voted to outlaw minarets. Draft legislation to ban religious symbols from public buildings has been prepared in Spain. A few months ago, Europe’s first burqa ban came into law in Belgium.

The Netherlands has not bucked this trend, with right-wing MP Geert Wilders making massive gains in the recent general election. He is widely known for his opposition to what he calls the ‘Islamification’ of the Netherlands.

The French are nevertheless aware of the dangers associated with introducing a ban. These include not only alienating many Muslims, but also the possibility of legal challenges. Some experts warn that outlawing the burqa in public places breaches individual freedoms guaranteed by the French constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

These considerations have resulted in the French legislation being drafted with an eye to pragmatism. The garments have been made illegal because they constitute a menace to public order: how can the police do their job if women’s identities can be hidden behind the full veil?

President Sarkozy has said the burqa degrades women, but that idea is nowhere to be found in the new legislation. French MPs feel the garment is “totally at odds with the French Republic”. Such ideas go down well with the voters, but appear unable to be squared with the law.

The burqa will be banned – but officially only because it hinders the work of the police.

Ban busting
Some French organisations have vowed to take action against the ban. The group, Hands Off My Constitution, was set up by Rachid Nekkaz and his wife Cecile de la Roux, to oppose the new law. The pair have pledged to sell what they own to raise money to pay fines on behalf of women caught out by the law.

France has Europe's largest Muslim community but it's unclear how many people will be affected by the law. Ms de la Roux says relatively few women wear burqas in France. The question is how the law is to be enforced and how frequently such women will face fines.


  • Women wearing the niqab<br>&copy; Wikimedia Commons -


Emory Odo 26 March 2011 - 10:12am

I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I don't know who you are but definitely you're going to a famous blogger if you aren't already ;) Cheers!

Anonymous 18 February 2011 - 5:17am / Canada

Id Never thought id say this but I agree with the French. Ban it in all of the western world. If a non Muslim were to walk the streets wearing a Ski mask every where, he would be arested. What about beliving in a invesibal man that obvously dosent care about the world change about that.

JW 15 July 2010 - 3:00pm / NL

These laws do nothing but alienate a portion of the population. There is no rationale behind it other than mean spiritedness. We should reach out to our Islamic citizens. Stigmatizing them only builds more barriers and widens the cultural rift.

Anonymous 7 December 2010 - 5:25am

Nothing to say about the mean spirited dhimmi laws that alienate non Muslims in Islamic controlled countries, I suppose. Either you're an Islamic fundamentalist plant or a politically correct crackpot offering both cheeks and trying to get us all sodomized. "Us all" includes infidels, apostates and any Muslim who would like to escape Islamic totalitarianism.

Hiram2 15 July 2010 - 3:31pm

"These laws do nothing but alienate a portion of the population.".......Good! Muslim women who are forced to wear burqas are alienated every day of their lives and they deserve to be treated with respect as any other citizen. { "Stigmatizing them only builds more barriers and widens the cultural rift.".......These laws breaks down those "barriers" and allows those humans we call women to be an equal part of society. Be nice my friend and think how you would feel if you had to cover your face in the public. You might like it but I doubt very seriously that Muslim women do.

Hiram2 14 July 2010 - 3:57pm

The only problem with your statement " Remember the saying "when in Rome do as the Romans do" is: Rome or should I say the EU (more especially the UK) is now largely Islamic in nature and will soon be entirely Islamic. Rome, the EU, caused the Islamic problem because it allowed and still is allowing millions of Muslims (who care nothing about the European and British culture or the laws) to enter both legally and illegally. Anonymous, you folks in the UK are the cause and effect of your Islamic problem because you do not collectively hold your politicians accountable; whereas, Muslims are just the opposite. They know how to work the system and politicians. If you are not a member of BNP, you might want to check them out. The BNP might not be right on all issues but their fight against the mass immigration of Muslims is correct. Support the BNP and check them out. They are just like you. Good British citizens who love and support their country and who don't want to see their culture destroyed by masses of people who care nothing about their host or their culture.

Anonymous 14 July 2010 - 11:37am / ENGLAND

Well done to the French !!!!!!! this should be a world wide ban, there is no need for people to walk about in this mode of dress - what are they hiding. Of course the police need to know who they are looking at - also the public are entitled to not have to worry if they are carrying explosives under this mode of dress, remember the male who dressed in these clothes to escape at the airport? As I said, well done to the French, they should be banned in England where was born and raised, but of course the English government would be scared of "offending" anyone by supporting this ban - cowards! If these people are so determined to wear clothes that arent necessary by their adopted country they should go back to their own countries where it is commonplace to dress this way. Remember the saying "when in Rome do as the Romans do"

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