A report in Le Monde on the 10th anniversary of French headscarf ban: ‘Ten Years After the Headscarf Ban: New Tensions’

March 15, 2014

 

A report in Le Monde on the 10th anniversary of French headscarf ban: ‘Ten Years After the Headscarf Ban: New Tensions’

 

Source: http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2014/03/15/voile-apres-dix-ans-d-interdiction-de-nouvelles-tensions_4383602_3224.html

 

(Note: needs a subscription to Le Monde to access full article)

New Book: Jennifer Selby, “Questioning French Secularism”

Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, this book examines how contemporary secularism in France is positioned as a guarantor of Muslim women’s rights. Selby analyzes public discourses on secularism in France to consider how Islam becomes subsumed under the fetishized headscarf, how women’s bodies come to represent collective identities, and how the activism and engagement of suburban Muslim women with secular politics is ignored.

Neither Whores Nor Submissives (NPNS) Mobilizes Burqa Discussions outside of Paris

Journal du Dimanche – October 26, 2010

NPNS has launched its “Ambassadors of French Secularism and Equality” operation, designed to mobilize anti-burqa-law movements in the housing projects outside of Paris. The group is collaborating with Eric Besson, minister of immigration.

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.

French social scientist claims that secularism important to French Muslims

Philippe Portier, director of the Groupe Sociétés, Religions et Laïcité at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE), claims that in France today there is a “secularism of integration” which serves Muslims.

Portier notes how in his response to the minaret ban, French President Sarkozy emphasized how religious traditions work as social integrative forces. Portier also notes the different status of Catholicism and Islam in the Republic, and the factors which privilege the former.

Moreover, with the exception of government appointed groups like the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), Islam maintains few “pastoral” organizations to help guide the faithful in France.

Nicolas Sarkozy Defends the Notion of “Positive French Secularism”

French president Nicolas Sarkozy recently defended the notion of “positive secularism” which allows place for religion in the public sphere. While Sarkozy has not introduced any real reform, making the statement in speeches in Rome in December 2007 and in Riyad in January 2008, the suggestion has created fierce debate. In the past Sarkozy has read the 1905 law separating Church and State broadly, notably in allowing the new construction of religious spaces for Muslims and in the controversial creation of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith) in 2003.

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