French Deputies Open Debate on the Burqa

A coalition has come together in the National Assembly of members who wish to consider women who wear the burqa and the niqab in the French territory. 58 deputies (43 from President Sarkozy´s Union for a Popular Movement or UMP) from different parties signed a proposition put forward by André Gerin (Rhône) to create a new government commission to consider the implications of the practice in France. Gerin claims that the practice is increasingly common. The suggestion has created much debate. Government spokesperson Luc Chatel told the media that, “If it were determined that wearing the burka is a submissive act, and that it is contrary to republican principles [. . .] parliament would have to draw the necessary conclusions.” There are currently no figures which indicate the actual number of women who wear the burqa or the niqab in France. The author of Musulmans de France (Éditions Robert Laffront, 2007) estimates there to be between 30,000-50,000 Salafists in the Republic.

Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith) told reporters, “We are shocked by the idea parliament should be put to work on such a marginal issue.” Fadela Amara, however, pushed for action, claiming alarm for the number of women “who are being put in this kind of tomb”. Sihem Habchi, president of NPNS (Neither Whores Nor Submissives) echoed Amara, noting the group´s support of such a commission. Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Mosque of Paris, also supports the idea of a new inquiry, saying that face covering of women is a fundamentalist practice not prescribed by Islam. Should the remainder of the house agree to the commission, it would draft a report to be released no later than November 30, 2009.