French legislature’s report on the burqa ban

A 32-member multiparty panel led by André Gerin presented a panoply of recommendations aimed at dissuading Muslim women from wearing full-face covering headscarves in this report. Another recommendation: denying resident cards and citizenship to women who wear all-encompassing veils.

The panel was bitterly divided over recommending a ban on face-covering veils on the street, and that was not among the 15 recommendations retained after a vote. President Nicolas Sarkozy put the issue before the French in June when he told a joint gathering of parliament that face-covering veils “are not welcome” in France.

Only several thousand women in France are thought to wear burqa-style garments, usually pinning a “niqab” across their faces to go with their long, dark robes. Such veils are widely seen as a gateway to extremism and an attack on gender equality and secularism, a basic value of modern-day France.

“The all-enveloping veil represents, in an extraordinary way, everything that France instinctively rejects. This is the symbol of the enslavement of women and the banner … of extremist fundamentalism,” said Bernard Accoyer, president of the National Assembly, the lower house, after being presented with the report.

Despite the acrimony, this recommendation to ban the veils in public sector facilities could be in place “before the end of the year,” conservative lawmaker Eric Raoult, the panel’s No. 2, told The Associated Press. “We need maybe six months or a little more to explain what we want,” he told The AP, adding that “by the end of 2010” there could be such an interdiction.

Hours after the report was presented, President Sarkozy visited a Muslim cemetery in northern France that has been desecrated twice. Secularism, he said in a speech honoring Muslims who fought and died for France, “is not the negation of religion.” But it is “an essential component of our identity.”

The president of the parliamentary panel, André Gerin, has stressed that the goal of any ban is not to stigmatize women with face-covering veils but to rout out people he calls “gurus” who indoctrinate and force even young girls to cover themselves.

The recommendations show attention, too, to public sector employees dealing with women in full veil who refuse to remove it. In particular, there have been reports of confrontations in hospital settings in which a husband refuses to allow his wife to be treated by a male doctor. Also among the 15 recommendations that passed a panel vote is one calling for special training by state employees to manage such confrontations and another to “systematically signal” when minors are seen wearing full-body veils.

Neither the parliament nor the government is obliged to act on the panel’s recommendations. No action is likely before March regional elections.

French Gerin report recommends full-faced veils to be banned

A 32-member multiparty panel led by Andre Gerin presented a panoply of recommendations aimed at dissuading Muslim women from wearing full-face covering headscarves. Another recommendation: denying resident cards and citizenship to women who wear all-encompassing veils.

The panel was bitterly divided over recommending a ban on face-covering veils on the street, and that was not among the 15 recommendations retained after a vote. President Nicolas Sarkozy put the issue before the French in June when he told a joint gathering of parliament that face-covering veils “are not welcome” in France.

Only several thousand women in France are thought to wear burqa-style garments, usually pinning a “niqab” across their faces to go with their long, dark robes. Such veils are widely seen as a gateway to extremism and an attack on gender equality and secularism, a basic value of modern-day France.

“The all-enveloping veil represents, in an extraordinary way, everything that France instinctively rejects. This is the symbol of the enslavement of women and the banner … of extremist fundamentalism,” said Bernard Accoyer, president of the National Assembly, the lower house, after being presented with the report.

Despite the acrimony, the recommendation to ban the veils in public sector facilities could be in place “before the end of the year,” conservative lawmaker Eric Raoult, the panel’s No. 2, told The Associated Press. “We need maybe six months or a little more to explain what we want,” he told The AP, adding that “by the end of 2010” there could be such an interdiction.

Hours after the report was presented, President Sarkozy visited a Muslim cemetery in northern France that has been desecrated twice. Secularism, he said in a speech honoring Muslims who fought and died for France, “is not the negation of religion.” But it is “an essential component of our identity.”

The president of the parliamentary panel, Andre Gerin, has stressed that the goal of any ban is not to stigmatize women with face-covering veils but to rout out people he calls “gurus” who indoctrinate and force even young girls to cover themselves.

The recommendations show attention, too, to public sector employees dealing with women in full veil who refuse to remove it. In particular, there have been reports of confrontations in hospital settings in which a husband refuses to allow his wife to be treated by a male doctor. Also among the 15 recommendations that passed a panel vote is one calling for special training by state employees to manage such confrontations and another to “systematically signal” when minors are seen wearing full-body veils.

Neither the parliament nor the government is obliged to act on the panel’s recommendations. No action is likely before March regional elections.

Possible burqa ban gains support in France

A report drawn up by French MPs calls for a ban on Afghan-style burqas and other garments that cover a woman’s face. The proposal has strong public support. According to an opinion poll by Ipsos for the magazine Le Point, 57 percent of voters favor a ban while 37 percent are opposed.

The recommendations of a parliamentary commission, to be published next week, are expected to include a bar on wearing full veils on public transport and in schools, hospitals and public-sector offices including post offices. The commission is thought likely to call for a total ban after further consultation.
President Nicolas Sarkozy launched a debate on veils last June, telling a special sitting of both houses of parliament that they were “not welcome” in France. He said last week the full veil was “contrary to our values and to the ideals we have of women’s dignity”.

André Gerin, the Communist MP who heads the commission, predicted the ban would be “absolute”. He has denounced what he called “French-style Talibans”. “The veil is only the visible part of the iceberg,” he said.

Opponents of a ban argue it would stigmatize Muslims. “France would be the only country in the world that sends its policemen … to stop in the street young women who are victims more than they are guilty,” wrote Laurent Joffrin, editor of the left-wing newspaper Libération. Police officers in some areas with large Muslim communities have warned that stopping women wearing veils would provoke riots.

French lawmakers debate possible burqa ban

Amid heated debates, French lawmakers are wrestling with a compromise over a proposed ban on the wearing of face-veil by Muslim women. “We will talk about the idea of a law, about the need to take time to prepare it and to avoid stigmatization,” said MP André Gerin, head of the parliamentary commission on the issue.

Gerin, who spearheaded the anti-burqa campaign, said the next step will be a law imposing a ban on the burqa. Many lawmakers have voiced skepticism at the prospect of police forcing women to lift their veils in public, leaving the parliamentary committee mulling more applicable compromises. The initial proposal is to impose fines of up to €750 on people covering their faces in all public places.

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) has already introduced a draft bill with the proposal in the National Assembly. But Gerin recommended a more selective ban applying only to public buildings and schools. The conclusions of the special panel are going to be released in a report by the end of January.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon also waded into the fray saying he was in favor of a ban. He said the parliament should adopt a resolution outlining France’s rejection of the burqa and that several legislative texts and regulations should follow.

Libération (French)

French commission on the burqa to hear Tariq Ramadan

The national parliamentary commission investigating niqab and burqa-use in France will receive testimony from Tariq Ramadan on December 2nd.

Le Figaro reports that according to André Gerin, there is increased division among the UMP on the importance of a law banning their use.

The report is expected to be made public in January 2010.

André Gerin rules out burqa ban in France

France will issue recommendations against full face veils but not pass a law barring Muslim women from wearing them, a leading backer of a legal ban has said.

André Gerin, chairman of a parliamentary inquiry into use of full face veils in France, reluctantly ruled out a ban.

France banned Muslim headscarves in state schools in 2004 following a similar inquiry and looked set to bring in an outright ban on veils coverings the whole face, such as burqas or niqabs, when it launched the panel last June at the request of Gerin, a Communist deputy from Lyon.

At its weekly hearings, legal experts, local officials, Muslim leaders and even some militant secularists have told the deputies on the panel that a ban could be anti-constitutional, counterproductive and impossible to enforce.

The burqa/niqab commission in France auditions less-willing participants

As the French commission on niqab/burqa-wearing, led by André Gerin, heads to Lille, journalists expect more heated discussion as two niqab-wearing women and several imams will be auditioned.

Mahmoud Doua, imam and member of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF or l’Union des organisations islamiques de France) called for French Muslims to conform to “French culture.” Rémi Schwartz, spokesperson from the Stasi Commission in 2003 also commented on the importance of respecting individual choice. Others noted the complicated possibility of banning these coverings entirely.

New resistance to Islamic finance in France

PCF (French Communist Party) member André Gerin has addressed a letter to François Fillon against changing laws to allow “Shari’a compatible” Islamic banking in France, claiming that accommodation is not appropriate and that this new banking calls into question “democratic and republican values.”

Le Monde reports that two laws which would have allowed for greater facility of Islamic banking have been censured in parliament. Two French banks, BNP Paribas and Calyon Crédit Agricole are already open in the Gulf States.

As the burqa commission continues in France, 5 suburban mayors are interviewed

As the commission into the wearing of the burqa in France led by André Gerin continues, five banlieusard mayors from Monfermeil, Cachan, Rillieux-la-Pape, Clichy-sous-Bois and Gonesse were interviewed to express their positions on French secularism and the impact of a possible ban.

Generally, they noted an increase in the number of parents and students who wear the burqa and niqab in their suburbs (even if at the national level only reflects 0.5% of the population) and express concern about the effects on women’s access to public services (should a law come into place) and integration into French society (should it not).