French Muslim Minister Fadela Amara wants the Burka banned

“The burka represents not a piece of fabric but the political manipulation of a religion that enslaves women and disputes the principle of equality between men and women – one of the founding principles of our republic.”

A ban on the wearing of the burka in France would help stem the spread of the “cancer” of radical Islam, one of its female Muslim ministers has said. Minister Fadela Amara claims that a veil covering everything but the eyes represented “the oppression of women”. Amara said she was “in favour of the burka not existing in my country”. The comments come as French MPs hold hearings on whether to ban the garment, which covers the body from head to toe.

Belgian Police No Longer Allowed to Check Burqa Wearers

Male police officers are no longer allowed to check the identity of a woman wearing a burka. Only the few female officers of the police force may do so. This is laid down in a new directive which the Federal Police have issued to its staff. Senator Dirk Claes (Christian democrat) believes that as a consequence persons wearing burkas will no longer be checked. The police unions say the new rule was issued “so as not to provoke”. “Nevertheless, male officers should also be allowed to check the identity of women wearing burkas,” says Philip Van Hamme, the chairman of the NSVP [police union].

Report Claims that Burqa use in France is Marginal

Two French police intelligence agencies have issued reports calling burqa use in the country a “marginal phenomenon,” one of which claimed fewer than 400 women wear the full-body covering. The wearing of burqas has been a controversial issue in France. French legislators have pondered banning the use of burqas and niqabs, full-face veils that ,unlike burqas, do no not obscure use of the wearer’s eyes altogether.

One of the reports, released by French intelligence agency Sous-direction de l’information générale, found only 367 women in France wear the burqa. But the report does not claim that number is a comprehensive figure, and urges further study into the issue, Le Monde reported. A committee of 32 legislators from all four major political parties in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, is expected to deliver its report on whether burqas should be banned by the end of the year. André Gerin called the new estimates “ridiculous.”

Anthropologist John Bowen Interviewed About Burqas in France

Author of Why the French Don’t like Headscarves (Princeton UP, 2007), Professor John Bowen of the University of Washington in St. Louis is interviewed about the new commission on the burqa and niqab, set to give its recommendations in December 2009. Bowen describes other European positions against the burqa and how it has trespassed French positions of religion in the public sphere. He suggests that new forms of dialogue which privilege Muslim interlocutors are important to normalize the presence of Islam in France.

Le Figaro Interviews Jacques Myard and Mohammed Mousssaoui on the Significance of the Burqa in France

This Le Figaro interview features Jacques Myard, member of the National Assembly (UMP) who represents the Yvelines department, and Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the CFCM (the French Council of the Muslim Faith). The former expresses the necessity to ban burqas in France to protect the status of women, while the latter claims that such a law would unfairly restrict freedom of expression and religion.

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.”

Al-Qaeda-affiliated Organization Warns of Revenge if France Bans the Burqa

France is maintaining “very great vigilance” toward actions and statements by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or North Africa, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said in a briefing. The al-Qaeda affiliate threatened vengeance for President Nicolas Sarkozy’s criticism of the face-covering veils worn by some Muslim women. The Algeria-based group issued a statement on Islamic Web sites vowing to “seek vengeance against France” over Mr. Sarkozy’s comments about face-covering Muslim veils such as the burqa and niqab. The declaration could not be independently verified. “We will not tolerate such provocations and injustices, and we will take our revenge from France,” said the statement, signed by Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, calling himself “commander of al Qaeda in North Africa [Islamic Maghreb].”

The statement is dated to June 28, five days after French President Nicolas Sarkozy controversially told lawmakers that the traditional Muslim garment was “not welcome” in France. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was originally a militant Islamist movement against Algeria’s secular government in the early 90s. It has since spread its geographic and political influence.

Le Figaro Article Describes the Rise of Burqa-Wearing Women in Vénissieux, France

Vénissieux, a city of 60, 000 in the outskirts of Lyon, has witnessed an important increase in the number of women wearing burqas and niqabs, according to this article by Le Figaro daily newspaper. Locals estimate there may be 100 burqa-wearing women in the small city, which is also home to communist-party mayor André Gérin, who initially launched the possibility of a nation-wide commission to consider the practice and its legality in France. Gérin claims that more than half the population are foreigners, most of whom have migrated from North African and are Muslim. The now famous “Marche des Beurs” departed from the city in 1983.

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.

Dutch artists integrate veil debate in artworks

A Dutch artist and fashion designer plan to discuss the strong emotional sentiments concerning Muslim headwear at an event at the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven on November 23, 2008. The two plan to present their work in order to integrate their opinions about the burqa and the hijab or headscarf.

The strong feelings that Muslim headwear evokes among Dutch nationals is something artist Joeb Koenings feels important to discuss. “Design always has the capacity to provoke emotions among people. The garment is automatically associated with a culture that many people fear. People respond very instinctively when they see a burqa or Muslim headscarf,” says Koenings.

Fashion designer Cindy van den Breman will discuss her collection of fashionable Muslim headwear. Breman has also been involved in developing the first prototype of Muslim sportswear. The two plan to discuss the changing viewpoints of clothing, style, and modesty in light of issues surrounding Islamic garments in the Netherlands.

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