on Sun Apr 13, 2014 7:20 pm#59453
VÉNISSIEUX, France — France on Monday formally banned the wearing of full veils in public places, becoming the first country in Europe to impose restrictions on a form of attire that some Muslims consider a religious obligation.
The ban, which came after a year of debate and months of preparation, is viewed by supporters as a necessary step to preserve French culture and to fight what they see as separatist tendencies among Muslims. But the ban set off protests in Paris and several other cities, and it has left many Muslims, including those in this heavily immigrant community near Lyon, worried about their rights as French citizens.
Karima, 31, who was born in France and asked to be referred to by only her first name, has worn the niqab since the age of 15 as a sign of her devotion to God. She says she feels as if France has betrayed her.
“It’s as if I was married to a man who mistreated me, but I’m still in love with him,” she said. “It’s as if he had an identity crisis, and I would still stay with him after 31 years of marriage.”
The police do not have the authority under the law to remove full veils, only to fine or require citizenship lessons for those who violate the new law. They also showed few signs of moving quickly to enforce the new rules for fear of causing unrest in big cities with Muslim communities.
“The law will be infinitely difficult to enforce, and will be infinitely rarely enforced,” Manuel Roux, a union leader for local police chiefs, told France Inter radio.
Patrice Ribeiro, general secretary of Synergie Officiers, a police union, said the law was “a source of trouble more than anything else.” In areas with large immigrant populations, he said in an interview, the law cannot be carried out strictly: “We’ll create riots.” He said the matter would need to be handled with the help of religious authorities.
The issue was set alight in April 2009 by André Gérin, then the Communist mayor of Vénissieux. Half of the town’s 60,000 residents are non-French citizens or their French-born children, and the niqab has been a relatively normal sight here. Mr. Gérin said at the time that the full facial veil, which is known in France erroneously as the burqa, should be banned in the name of the liberty and equality of women in a secular country.
On Monday, in his office, Mr. Gérin said the burqa was “just the tip of the iceberg” of the spread of Muslim radicalism and separatism that threatened the French Republic.
The law does not mention Islam or women. It bans the covering of the face in any public place, including shops and the street, as a security measure. A clause says that anyone who forces a woman to cover her face can be imprisoned for up to a year and fined up to 30,000 euros, about $43,000.
But the law is “a point of departure,” said Mr. Gérin, who retired as mayor but remains a member of the National Assembly. Speaking of young Muslim women who refuse to participate in school sports, or Muslim men who refuse to allow a male doctor to treat their wives or who allegedly compel their wives to wear the veil, Mr. Gérin called the law “a wake-up call,” a means “to eradicate this minority of fundamentalists, ‘the gurus’ who instrumentalize Islam for political reasons.”
Polls show that the law is broadly popular in France, and it passed the lower house of Parliament with only one vote opposed. But many Muslim women say it feels like an outrage. To them, it singles out and stigmatizes one gender of one religion.
Karima, who runs a business and uses public transportation, said she would lift the veil if required for an identity check, but added, “I won’t remove it, I’ll have to be buried in it.”
Her husband supports her, she said, and she wants her daughter, 11, to respect Islam, too. She is thinking about buying a scooter so she can wear a helmet instead. But frankly, she said, the metro is much faster.
She cannot sleep with worry, she said. “From now on, I’ll be treated like an illegal worker, an outlaw, a person wanted by the police, even though the only crime I’ve committed is to show myself as I am.”
Nelly Moussaid, 28, a former national karate champion, has been wearing the niqab for two years “as a sign of faith.” She lives in Marseille with her husband and their 4-month-old boy. While Marseille is a tolerant city with many immigrants and Muslims, she said, “those who keep wearing the niqab will go crazy,” asking: “Will they manage to catch all of us, arrest us at every corner of every street?”
The mood in France is aggressive, she said. “Before, on the street, I got only stares. But now people look at us as if we had killed their mothers.”
The Interior Ministry estimates that only about 2,000 women wear the niqab in France, while Mr. Gérin, who helped write a long parliamentary report on the issue, believes that the number is higher. But with an estimated six million Muslims in France, the action taken seems large compared with the problem, critics say, and they accuse President Nicolas Sarkozy and his center-right party of playing politics with a generalized and unjustified fear of Islam and immigrants.
Mr. Sarkozy has responded that Islam is not the problem, only radical Islam, which does not respect French values and separation of church and state.
Naima Bouteldja interviewed 32 women who wear the niqab for the Open Society Foundation, a nongovernmental organization. She found none who said they had been forced to wear the veil, and 10 said they started wearing the niqab as a response to the political controversy. Eight of the 32 were French converts to Islam; a third said they did not wear the niqab all the time.
“Some were angry, and some said that many ‘niqabis’ had already left France, and many of them talked about leaving France,” she said. “Most of the women confront verbal abuse on a daily basis, with a lot of the abuse coming from Muslims.” Her report, “Unveiling the Truth: Why 32 Muslim Women Wear the Full-Face Veil in France,” was released Monday.
In Paris, a protest over the ban near the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, organized by a Muslim property developer, resulted in the arrest of two men and three women for an illegal gathering, the police said — not for the women’s wearing of the full veil.
Maïa de la Baume contributed reporting.
Do you think this is overboard or justified? Is this infringement on rights? When will this be adopted in the US?
It gets challenged in court but gets held up.
Others are following suit.
on Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:07 pm#59455
- ChisaGod Of Boobs
- Location : Boston, MA
on Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:42 pm#59460
- Location : Scotland
My opinion is it should be banned everywhere. The ones that just show the eye holes like a ninja, they're intimidating to the public. But I'm a white, heterosexual, tax paying, male member of the public so who gives a shit what I think.
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