French President Sarkozy has been vehemently against burqa (full-length garment with a grill over the eyes) and last June he had announced that burqa was “not welcome” on French territory.

Racist or Secular? France moves closure to partial burqa ban

A French parliamentary panel was constituted for the issue. The panel recently finished a 280-page report with a proposal of a partial ban. The report includes recommendations  –

  • to curb the wearing of Muslim veils in certain public facilities – hospitals, schools, government offices and on public transport.
  • lawmakers should pass a resolution condemning the garments.
  • anyone showing visible signs of “radical religious practice” should be refused residence cards and citizenship – in plain terms – if you wear a burqa or niqab, you won’t get residence cards or citizenship.

This isn’t new for France. In 2004, students were banned from wearing burqas in French public schools which was as the result of a law that prohibits students to wear any clearly visible religious symbols.

History of Burqa (from here)

This type of dress has its origins with desert times long before Islam arrived. It had two functions. Firstly as a sand mask in windy conditions. This would be worn by men and women and is still common today. For women only the masking of the face and body was used when one group was being raided by another. These raids often involved the taking of women of child bearing age. With all women hidden behind a veil the chances of being taken were substantially reduced as the women of child bearing age could not be quickly distinguished from the very young and the old in the turmoil of fighting.

In the Muslim world, it is also used for preventing women from being seen by men is closely linked to the concept of Namus.

French think it is Secular

Lawmakers seem to think that Burqa is against secularism and sex equality.

Presenting the report to the French National Assembly, speaker Bernard Accoyer said the face veil had too many negative connotations.
   
“It is the symbol of the repression of women, and… of extremist fundamentalism.

“This divisive approach is a denial of the equality between men and women and a rejection of co-existence side-by-side, without which our republic is nothing.” Source: BBC

Muslims consider it to be Racist

Due to obvious reasons, Muslims in the country believe that they are being wrongly targeted. There are around 2000 women who wear burqa or niqab (veil that shows eyes) and it is considered their religious right to wear it.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission in London issued a statement calling the commission report “the latest in a line of racist policies and laws that target Muslims, and in particular Muslim women” and said it would “simply legitimize further acts of racism and discrimination.”Source: www.reuters.com

France has the largest Muslim population in the western European countries – the majority with roots in North Africa — estimated at between five and six million

Security risk or Terrorism Target

Another aspect to the bill as introduced by President’s part is the security risk of covering the face.

 

The leader of Mr. Sarkozy’s rightist grouping in Parliament, Jean-Francois Copé, has already presented a draft bill that would make it illegal, for reasons of security, for anyone to cover their faces in public. Violators would face fines, according to the draft, which is not due to be debated until after regional elections in March.Source: www.nytimes.com

 

But on the other hand, some fear that a ban might make France target for terrorism.

What do you guys think? Are these Muslims being wrongly targeted or it is correct for France to pass a bill in the name of secularism and security?

 

 

 

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