Human Rights Watch has condemned France’s possible burqa ban for violating rights of Muslim women, warning the move could stigmatize the whole Muslim minority in the country. “We are still very concerned that the restrictions will seriously interfere with the rights of Muslim women in France – the right to manifest their religion and the right to personal autonomy,” Judith Sunderland, senior researcher for Western Europe at Human Rights Watch, told the Inter Press Service.
The rights group accused politicians championing the ban of taking the wrong approach to the integration of Muslim women. The human rights group warned that the French ban would stigmatize the Muslim minority in the country.
After the French debate, calls for banning the burqa are also being heard in Germany. Former MP Lale Akgün of the Social Democrat Party (SPD) said the burqa was a “full body prison”, violating human rights immensely. The German politician of Turkish background called for a ban in public spaces such as universities and schools as well as high security areas like banks and airports.
Most of her fellow SPD politicians, however, do not see a requirement for establishing a new law. Conservative party CDU and liberal FDP would only proscribe it where it conflicts with other liberties such as at schools. Green party leader Cem Özdemir says he cannot tolerate the burqa in public spaces, neither as a citizen, nor as a member of the Green party, but he also pointed out that the debate is a symbolic one and not tackling true conflicts; the number of women wearing a burqa in Germany was near to none.
A prominent French group of imams is backing a possible ban on the burqa. “We support any law that bans the wearing of a face veil in France,” said Hassan Chalghoumi, Chairman of the Conference of French Imams. The imam group, launched last year, says it fully supports a legal ban, basing their stance on the opinion of the majority of Muslim scholars who agree that a woman is not obliged to cover her entire face. Chalghoumi says face-veils are now being exploited as weapons “to tarnish” Muslim minorities in France and the West in general.
“Amid the silence of most of the Muslim organizations in France, we took such decision to end defaming campaigns against Islam and Muslims,” said the Tunisian-born Drancy imam.
The group’s position, however, drew immediate rebuke from prominent Muslim leaders in the European country. Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the official French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM), rejects any legal ban as a violation for Muslims’ religious freedom rights. “Such a call would only help Islamophobia rather than suppress it,” agrees Fouad Alaoui, President of the French Union of Islamic Organizations (l’UOIF). The l’UOIF has voiced strong opposition to a face-veil ban bill and attended three sessions of the parliamentary commission discussing the ban.