French Muslim women claim the niqab law has little weight

The Toronto Star – March 31, 2012

 

Nearly one year after France implemented its controversial ban on wearing the Islamic veil— a niqab or burka — in public, a surprising fact has emerged. It appears that few women have actually removed their veils to obey the law. As the presidential election in France approaches, and Islam and Muslim integration are top of mind, critics say the law was an exercise in pleasing the electorate, in “marketing,” while further stigmatizing Muslims.

It didn’t take a visitor to the Les Minguettes neighbourhood of Vénissieux long to observe the widespread non-compliance. Upon emerging from the subway at Vénissieux station, a niqab-wearing woman walked in from the opposite direction, accompanied by a man. On the tram platform outside, two niqab-wearers waited, chatting. And in Les Minguettes, they were not the norm, but neither were they hard to find.

Vénissieux is the place where the idea for the law first originated, with André Gérin, then the Communist mayor and soon-to-be-retired National Assembly member. According to numbers compiled by the union of police chiefs, the SCPN, there have been 335 people taken in for questioning by the police. About 300 have been issued fines, which top out at 150 euros (about $200).