Parliamentary Hearings Begin Examining Niqabs and Burqas in France

The French National Assembly, with the support of President Nicolas Sarkozy, recently formed a special commission on the niqab . Its first hearings will be held next week and continue throughout the month, with recommendations expected before the end of the year. Parliamentary hearings are not generally open to the public, but no decision has been made on whether the inquiry will be closed. Like the debate over the 2004 law that outlawed Muslim head scarves in French public schools, the question of the niqab broadly pits the ideal of a secular state against the equally treasured guarantees of freedom of religion and expression.

Burqa-wearing women have responded in a great deal of media. Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) has said that he prefers a “middle-road” Islam, and that “We are not asking French society to accept the burqa.”