News Agencies – September 22, 2011
Kenza Drider’s posters for the French presidential race are ready to go, months before the official campaign begins. There she is, the “freedom candidate,” pictured standing in front of a line of police – a forbidden veil hiding her face. Drider declared her candidacy in Meaux, the city east of Paris run by top conservative lawmaker and Sarkozy ally Jean-Francois Cope, who championed the ban.
Drider, 32, who has worn a face veil for 13 years, hasn’t shirked from denouncing the ban in the past. She was the only veiled woman to testify before an information commission of lawmakers studying a potential ban before the law was passed. With four children, Drider says she goes about the southern city of Avignon, where she lives, facing down insults but left alone by police.
News Agencies – February 18, 2011
France’s National Front party leader Marine Le Pen said that a planned national debate on Islam and secularism would boost its support and improve its chances in the presidential election next year. Le Pen mocked the planned debate as a new opinion poll showed she could score a strong 20 percent in the first round of the presidential vote.
President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government wants the debate, due in April, to discuss whether France’s five-million-strong Muslim minority supports the official separation of church and state.
Le Pen said it could end up backfiring on Sarkozy and his ally Jean-Francois Cope.
Critics said Sarkozy’s government-sponsored debate on national identity in 2009-2010, which led to a ban on full face veils in public, turned into a public forum to air complaints about Muslims and make the minority feel stigmatised. The Ifop poll published on Friday showed Le Pen could win 20 percent in the first round, which would put her in third place behind Sarkozy but in striking distance of Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry, the main opposition candidate.
Lawmaker Jean-Francois Cope, head of President Sarkozy’s UMP party suggested he would submit a bill to have the veil banned not just from public buildings but also in the streets of France.
“We want a ban in public areas,” Cope said. However, the speaker of the lower chamber, Bernard Accoyer, said he felt his UMP party colleague’s plan risks “appearing premature” before the parliamentary panel issues its report.
Cope said after a meeting of Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement that he planned to file two distinct texts in January, one of which would ensconce the ban in a larger bill forbidding people from covering their faces on security grounds. The other text would be a resolution regarding respect for women’s rights. A resolution approved by lawmakers does not carry the weight of law, but solemnly affirms a principle.
Cope suggested a fine could be levied against anyone breaking the ban. However, he also suggested a period of mediation lasting several months “with the women in question and their husbands … to explain” and discuss the issue.
Led by Jean-François Copé, Nicolas Sarkozy’s political party, the UMP or the Union for a Popular Movement, has launched a website to consider and debate the niqab and burqa in the Republic: http://la-burqa-en-debat.fr/. The website includes polls, definitions, video stream and position pieces by elected officials, as well as additional information links on the subject.
Reaction to the website has been mixed. Farhad Khosrokhavar, sociologist and director of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, notes how the website makes the phenomenon appear far more widespread than it is.