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.
Sihem Habchi appeared as the first witness before a newly created parliamentary group studying Islamic clothing such as burqas and niqabs in the Republic, part of France’s effort to integrate its growing Muslim population while preserving its heritage and secular roots.
The panel, chaired by Communist Party lawmaker André Gédron, will hold months of hearings before issuing a report, likely by January 2010. It has no power to draft laws but could recommend legislation restricting or banning women from wearing head-to-toe Islamic robes that mask facial features in public.
The panel was announced in June 2009. Habchi heads Ni Putes, Ni Soumises — Neither Whores, Nor Submissives — an outspoken group fighting to improve the lot of Muslim women and girls in suburban areas. The group’s founder Fadela Amara, now the government’s urban affairs minister, supports a ban on full-body veils. The parliamentary panel is also to hear from supporters of the veils, though the list of witnesses has not yet been completed, the panel said.
In an opinion poll of 1,011 people representative of the French population, 44% reported that they favored a prohibition of the Islamic veil in streets and public buildings. 17% were “very favorable” and 27% “rather favorable”. 21% were “very opposed,” and the rest (35%) were “rather opposed.” The question, however, has two parts: whether the veil should be prohibited in public buildings (post offices, universities, etc.), and whether the veil should be prohibited in the street. If these two questions were separated, the response to the poll might have been different. Breakdown of the poll results by party: On the right: Movement for France (MPF): 59% in favor of the prohibition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP): 53% in favor Front National (FN): 40% in favor This relatively low level of support among the conserviatve FN can be interpreted in a number of ways. It could be a way of saying that the veil is not the problem – foreigners should return home, not integrate into French society. On the left: Communist Party: 48% in favor of the prohibition Greens: 39% in favor Socialists: 36% in favor Notably, not one of the individuals polled refused to answer the question.